“href =” https://www.law360.com/access-to-justice/articles/1426120/# “> Angela Childers
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“href =” https://www.law360.com/access-to-justice/articles/1426120/# “> Angela Childers Law360 (September 28, 2021, 7:35 p.m. EDT) – Two insurers may not have to pay close to $ 300,000 Spent To Defend Two Illinois State Lawyers In The Englewood Four Malicious Lawsuit Case, But Whether They Should Pay Their Share Of A $ 30 Million Settlement Remains , a federal judge said on Monday.
From left to right, Harold Richardson, Vincent Thames, Terrill Swift and Michael Saunders, the âEnglewood Four,â settled with Cook County for almost $ 30 million in 2017. (AP Photo / Paul Beaty, File)
U.S. District Judge Robert M. Dow Jr. ruled that questions of fact remained as to whether Cook County’s resolution of four underlying lawsuits against two deputy state prosecutors fell within the purview of the police. insurance issued by Starr Indemnity and Liability Co. and Axis Surplus Insurance Co., but denied the county’s claim for reimbursement of defense costs.
Cook County maintained an insurance policy with Starr that provided for $ 10 million in liability per event or wrongdoing and included “malicious lawsuits” among the covered bodily injury liability claims. The county also had excess policy with Axis.
In January 2017, the county informed carriers of a settlement offer made by four men – known as the Englewood Four – who were exonerated from rape and murder convictions and had sued Deputy Cook County prosecutors , Terence Johnson and Fabio Valentini, alleging their misconduct directed at wrongful convictions of men in the 1990s. The county paid nearly $ 30 million to settle the claims and requested coverage under insurance policies for the settlement. as well as $ 297,000 in defense costs and costs for Johnson.
Later that year, Starr Indemnity and Axis filed separate lawsuits asking the federal court to find that Johnson and Valentini were uninsured under their policies. In their lawsuits, which were later combined, the carriers argued that the prosecutors were not county employees and, therefore, insureds, and that Cook County had never been legally obligated to pay the charges. settlements or defense costs.
Although Justice Dow agreed that the two were not county employees, he noted that Cook County did not argue that carriers were required to compensate attorneys directly, but rather that insurers were obliged to indemnify the county for claims against him, and the settlement was within the scope of coverage.
If the question were only whether the county was required to compensate individual attorneys, it “might be inclined to agree with the carriers’ analysis,” the judge said. “However, that is not the problem the court faces. Instead, the court must consider whether … the county has settled in a reasonable anticipation of liability.”
Cook County argued that if a court ordered it to compensate the lawyers, that payment would be a loss covered by the policies. But Dow J. held that “the question of whether this was settled in a reasonable anticipation of liability is a factual question which cannot be answered on the basis of the” bare factual record which the carriers have presented “” and said dismissed insurers’ petitions to dismiss the county’s claims to seek coverage for the settlement.
However, the judge found that given the language of the policies and Cook County’s admission that the costs and defense costs were in Johnson’s name, the insurers were not obligated to reimburse the county for the costs and Johnson’s defense costs.
The attorney for the carriers and Cook County did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.
Starr Indemnity is represented by Wendy N. Enerson of Cozen O’Connor.
Axis Surplus Insurance is represented by Jeremy Scott Macklin and Kyle Michael Dickinson of Traub Lieberman Straus & Shrewsberry LLP.
Cook County is represented by A. Colin Wexler and Kenneth Steven Ulrich of Goldberg Kohn Ltd .; Cathy McNeil Stein, Jill Vosicky Ferrara, James Chandler and Jessica Megan Scheller of the Cook County District Attorney’s Office; and Emily Danya Gilman of DLA Piper.
The case is Starr Indemnity & Liability Co. v. Cook County, Illinois, case number 17-cv-01430, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
–Edited by Breda Lund.
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