MEGAN E. JONES APPELLANT
ARKANSAS LOCAL POLICE AND FIRE RETIREMENT SYSTEM, BOARD OF TRUSTEES, ET AL. APPELLEES
FROM THE PULASKI COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, SIXTH DIVISION [NO.
60CV-16-5354] HONORABLE TIMOTHY DAVIS FOX, JUDGE
A. Newcomb, for appellant.
Eichenbaum Liles, P.A., by: Richard L. Ramsay, for appellees.
KENNETH S. HIXSON, Judge
Megan E. Jones, a former police officer for the Little Rock
Police Department, appeals from the denial of her claim for
duty-related disability retirement benefits. The Arkansas
Local Police and Fire Retirement System (LOPFI) found that
Ms. Jones was not entitled to duty-related disability
retirement benefits because her disabling injuries occurred
while she was an employee of Dillard's Department Store
(Dillard's) and not the Little Rock Police Department.
LOPFI instead awarded Ms. Jones nonduty-related disability
retirement benefits. The LOPFI Board of Trustees (the Board)
confirmed this decision. Ms. Jones appealed the Board's
findings to the Pulaski County Circuit Court, which upheld
the Board's findings as being supported by substantial
evidence and not arbitrary and capricious.
appeal, Ms. Jones argues that the Board's decision was
not supported by substantial evidence, and also that the
Board violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) during
the proceedings. Because we agree that the Board's
decision was not supported by substantial evidence, we
reverse and remand for an award of duty-related disability
Code Annotated section 24-10-607(c)(1)(A) (Repl. 2014)
provides the legal standard that Ms. Jones had to meet to
receive duty-related disability retirement benefits:
Any active member who while an active member becomes totally
and permanently physically or mentally incapacitated for any
suitable duty as an employee as the result of a personal
injury or disease that the board finds to have arisen out
of and in the course of his or her actual performance of duty
as an employee may be retired by the board upon proper
application filed with the board by or on behalf of the
member or former member.
(Emphasis added.) The Board found that Ms. Jones failed to
establish that the cause of her disability was duty related
as required by the statute.
appeal is governed by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).
Our review of an appeal under the APA is directed, not toward
the circuit court, but toward the decision of the agency.
Sexton v. Local Police and Fire Ret. Sys., 2016
Ark.App. 496, 506 S.W.3d 248. For purposes of our review of
this case, the APA provides that the agency decision may be
reversed or modified if the substantial rights of the
petitioner have been prejudiced because the administrative
findings, inferences, conclusions, or decision are not
supported by substantial evidence or are arbitrary,
capricious, or characterized by an abuse of discretion. Ark.
Code Ann. § 25-15-212(h) (Repl. 2014). Our court reviews
the entire record to determine whether any substantial
evidence supports the agency decision. State Sex Offender
Risk Assessment Comm. v. Wallace, 2013 Ark.App. 654. In
determining whether substantial evidence exists to support an
agency decision, we ascertain whether there is relevant
evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support the agency's conclusion. Id. The issue
is not whether we would have made a different decision but
rather whether reasonable minds could conclude as the agency
Jones became a police officer for the Little Rock Police
Department (the Department) in 2006. Subsequently, with the
Department's permission, Ms. Jones obtained part-time
employment at Dillard's. While working at Dillard's,
Ms. Jones wore her full police uniform, and her duties were
to deter crime and prevent shoplifting.
separate incidents occurred that caused injuries to Ms. Jones
while discharging her duties at Dillard's. The first
occurred in 2008 when she was investigating a possible theft
of store property. On that occasion, during the course of Ms.
Jones's interaction with a suspect on the store parking
lot, the suspect got into her SUV and struck Ms. Jones with
the vehicle as the suspect fled the scene. The next incident
at Dillard's occurred in 2012 when Ms. Jones was trying
to apprehend three shoplifters; the shoplifters resisted,
resulting in a physical altercation in which Ms. Jones was
dragged to the floor. Ms. Jones sustained injuries to both
knees and to her right ankle during these incidents. Despite
these injuries, she was able to continue her employment as a
police officer with the Department until July 2015, at which
time her injuries had advanced to where she could no longer
perform her duties.
Jones applied for duty-related disability retirement benefits
in November 2015. In support of her claim, Ms. Jones
submitted a letter from her physician stating that Ms. Jones
was totally and permanently disabled from her job as a police
officer as a result of her injuries. Ms. Jones also submitted
copies of the felony information from the 2008 and 2012
incidents, which reflected that the perpetrators in each case
had been charged with battery committed against Ms. Jones
while she was acting as a police officer in the line of duty.
Jones testified at the hearing before the Board. Ms. Jones
described the incidents that occurred at Dillard's in
2008 and 2012, and she stated that due to the injuries she
received during those incidents, she ...