A panel of three appellate court judges has unanimously affirmed the decision by the Village of Buffalo Grove’s Fire Fighters’ Pension Board and a Lake County circuit court to award the family of Buffalo Grove, IL Local 3177 John Hauber the full line-of-duty death pension benefit.
Hauber died in January 2018 at age 51 of colon cancer, a disease he contracted on the job. He is survived by his wife, Kim, and their four daughters.
“The appellate court panel made the right decision on behalf of our fallen brother and his family,” says Local 3177 President Michael Spiro. “We are thankful for the resources from the IAFF and the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois (AFFI), especially the legal expertise, in this long battle.”
Hauber became a fire fighter/paramedic in May 1994, putting his life on the line every day. He was also exposed regularly to potentially carcinogenic materials.
In May 2014, Hauber was diagnosed with colon cancer, receiving two years of treatment before going into remission. But the cancer came back in 2017 and, despite aggressive treatment, Hauber died in January 2018.
Citing Hauber’s on-the-job exposure to carcinogens, the Village of Buffalo Grove’s Fire Fighters’ Pension Board approved a 100 percent line-of-duty death pension benefit to Hauber’s family. But Village of Buffalo Grove administration leaders appealed the award to the Lake County circuit court, arguing that the Hauber case did not meet state law requirements and that the surviving family members should only receive 75 percent of the benefit.
The village maintained that the award of survivor benefits required evidence that the colon cancer was caused by a specific, identifiable act or acts on duty, not simply a general correlation of the job and his cancer.
In a final attempt to block the 100 percent line-of-duty death pension benefit, the village appealed to the Second District appellate court. A three-judge panel reviewed the case.
The decision noted that fire department records showed Hauber responded to at least 127 fire calls that included building fires, vehicle fires and outdoor fires involving flammable chemicals over the course of his career. And, therefore, it was appropriate to argue that the cancer developed as a result of the “cumulative effects of acts of duty.”
The court disagreed with the Village’s argument that the cause of Hauber’s cancer needed to be directly linked to a specific incident.