Police and Firefighter Disability Fund

Thatcher v. City of Kokomo (Ind. March 6, 2012)

In this case, the Indiana Supreme Court answered two certified questions from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana regarding the 1977 Fund, a disability and pension fund for police officers and firefighters. The Court concluded that Indiana Code section 36-8-4-7(a), which prohibits a city from appointing people who have reached 36 years or age and reappointing people who are receiving benefits from the 1977 fund and have reached 40 years of age, applied to someone who was receiving benefits from the 1977 fund, but had recovered from his disability. The Court also concluded that one’s time spent receiving benefits from the 1977 fund did not count toward the years of service under section 36-8-4-7.

The Court’s conclusion is clearly correct under the language used by our legislature. The Court recognized the unfortunate nature of the situation at bar – a qualified former police officer who desired to work and whom the City wanted to employ was prohibited from returning to work.

It will be interesting to see if the legislature revises the relevant statutes in response to this decision. The legislature is keenly aware of courts’ interpretations of statutes. Decisions like Thatcher point out flaws in statutes’ language, which the legislature can then rectify to prevent future applications like the one at bar.

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