“It’s the principle of the thing” Now there’s a phrase that we’ve all heard and used, and it usually refers to an issue that isn’t earthshakingly important, but a clear case of right versus wrong.
As attorneys, we are often faced with handling matters of principle, as in those small injustices visited upon our clients. They’re rarely issues that involve large amounts of money, but what they do involve are issues of fairness our clients need our help to resolve.
A current case of mine is the perfect example of this. It involves a police officer who was injured and subsequently awarded a line-of-duty disability pension. However, his employer (a village in Illinois) balked at paying his continuing health insurance premiums. The total amount of money involved is less than $2,500 a year, but the issue is of immense importance to my client.
And to me. I handle quite a few workers’ compensation cases, with many of those involving police officers who have been injured in the line of duty. Prior to becoming an attorney, I worked for eight years at a large Chicago-area police department, and I have family members who are police officers. It’s safe to say I have a special interest in representing public safety officers.
In this case, the officer’s injury occurred when he responded to an automobile crash. The vehicle involved had struck a tree, which in turn knocked a traffic signal into the intersection. With the help of a fellow officer, my client attempted to move the fallen signal out of the intersection. Unfortunately, when he did so he suffered a serious injury.
Nearly two years later he was awarded a line-of-duty disability pension by his village’s police pension board. However, his application for health insurance benefits, which because of his disability status, should have been at no cost to him, was denied by the village.
The reason for the denial was in my view a misinterpretation of the statute, but unless challenged it would stand as a final decision. Fighting this meant investing a lot of my time and effort, and winning meant my client wouldn’t have to pay a $212.00 monthly insurance premium. Not exactly the case of the century.
But it was a clear-cut matter of fairness, and I took it on because I felt an injured police officer had been wronged. As these things go, the village has dragged its heels for over a year, but I’m in it until we prevail. Frankly, when that day comes I don’t know who will be more pleased, my client or me.
I have handled cases involving far more serious issues, and I have won awards for clients hundreds of times greater than what’s at stake in this case. However, it’s a case I’ve enjoyed more than most others because it involves an injured police officer, it will right a wrong, and, well, it’s the principle of the thing.