AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Civil Liability
of Law Enforcement Agencies & Personnel


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Insurance

     A malicious prosecution lawsuit against a police officer and the city that employed him was not covered under the city's insurance policy. The insurance contract's unambiguous language indicated that the "occurrence" triggering coverage was the beginning of the allegedly malicious prosecution, which took place before the policy period, rather than the termination of the prosecution in the plaintiff's favor. St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company v. The City of Zion, #2-13-1312, 2014 IL App (2d) 131212, 2014 Ill. App. Lexis 659.
     A man was charged with the murder and sexual assault of his three-year-old daughter. Charges were dropped after his defense attorney obtained DNA evidence and had it privately tested, but he was first imprisoned for eight months after detectives coerced a confession from him and delayed DNA testing, according to his lawsuit. A jury awarded him $15.5 million, including $6.2 million in punitive damages on malicious prosecution and other claims. Fox v. Hayes, #08-3736, 600 F.3d 819 (7th Cir. 2010). Offers to settle for less were rejected both before and after the verdict. A primary insurance policy required the insurer to defend the detectives up to a policy limit of $1 million. The county also had express insurance policies for $5 million from a second company, and further excess coverage from a third insurer. $8,166,000 of the damages awarded were upheld, including $3.4 million in punitive damages. The detectives assigned to the plaintiffs any claims against the insurers in exchange for an agreement not to seek punitive damages against the detectives' personal assets. A federal appeals court rejected the plaintiffs' claim against the secondary insurer that it breached a good faith duty to reasonably settle the claims and inform the detectives of their alleged conflicts of interest. The appeals court upheld the finding that the secondary insurer never had any control over the defense of the case before the jury verdict and accordingly had no duty either to settle the case or inform the detectives of a supposed conflict of interest. Fox v. Am. Alt. Ins. Corp., #13-1290, 2014 U.S. App. Lexis 12799 (7th Cir.).
     A man was arrested and convicted of sexual assault and home invasion. Later, he was exonerated and pardoned, and was awarded $9 million in a wrongful arrest and conviction lawsuit against a police officer. The city was required to indemnify the officer and the city sought to obtain payment of the judgment from its liability insurers. The appeals court noted that even though the city properly notified its insurers of the lawsuit, they all refused to help the city and officer defend the claim or provide any indemnification. Additionally, they did not go to court to seek a declaratory judgment that the claims were not covered under their policies. Only after it was all over was the current lawsuit filed, seeking a declaratory judgment that insurers had no obligation to pay. The company providing the insurance policy as of the date of the arrestee's exoneration will be required to pay the judgment. The insurer could also be held liable under a state statute for an unreasonable and vexatious failure to provide a defense. American Safety Casualty Insurance Co. v. City of Waukegan, #11-2775,  2012 U.S. App. Lexis 5496 (7th Cir.), rehearing denied by, rehearing, en banc, denied by: American Safety Casualty Insurance Co. v. City of Waukegan, #11-2775, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 8722 (7th Cir. Ill.).
     In an arrestee's lawsuit claiming that an officer used excessive force against him during the arrest, the jury rejected the federal civil rights claim, while awarding the plaintiff $125,000 on an assertion that the officer was negligent under Maine state law in the use of force against him. The trial court reduced the award to $10,000, since a state statute limits the personal liability of a government employee to that amount as a maximum recovery. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the statutory limitation did not apply because the officer was covered by an insurance policy, resulting in the possibility of higher liability awards (of either $400,000 or the policy limit) for claims "against a governmental entity or an employee" under the statute. The federal appeals court certified to the Maine Supreme Court an unresolved issue of state law as to whether the higher liability limit only applied to claims against government employees in their official capacity, as opposed to those against them in their individual capacities. The Maine court must also rule on how to interpret a possible ambiguity in the insurance policy's coverage. Fortin v. Titcomb, #10-2370, 2012 U.S. App. Lexis 1422 (1st Cir.).
     An intermediate North Carolina appeals court held that a county 911 center provides a governmental function, protecting the health and welfare of the county's citizens. It also noted that the center's insurance policy provided that it does not waive the defense of governmental immunity. It further held, therefore, that a trial court acted properly in dismissing a lawsuit against the 911 operators in their official capacity, while letting claims against them in their individual capacity proceed. The lawsuit concerned the 911 center's allegedly inadequate response to calls concerning a child who had stopped breathing, and subsequently died. Wright v. Gaston County, #COA09-792, 2010 N.C. App. Lexis 1248.
     An arrestee convicted of murder whose conviction was subsequently overturned sued the state's attorney's office and the former state's attorney for damages. The lawsuit claimed that the former state's attorney, in cooperation with police officers, "framed" and falsely prosecuted the plaintiff, coercing and threatening two key witnesses, inducing them to testify falsely, and concealing exculpatory evidence. A federal appeals court held that the county's obligation, under Illinois state law, to pay judgments against the former state's attorney or the state's attorney's office did not constitute an "occurrence" or "accident" under the terms of commercial general liability and law enforcement insurance policies issued to the county. The insurer, therefore, has no duty to defend or indemnify the county. Nat'l Cas. Co. v. McFatridge, #09-1497, 2010 U.S. App. Lexis 8762 (7th Cir.).
     Insurance company was not required to provide coverage for a lawsuit against police department when no notice of the case was received until four days before the trial, depriving the insurer of the opportunity to investigate the claim or participate in preparing a defense. The terms of the policy require immediate notice of any lawsuit, and the city, which is a "reasonably sophisticated insured," waited twenty-eight months before providing notice to the insurer. American Safety Casualty Insurance Co. v. City of Waukegan, #07 C 1990, 2009 U.S. Dist. Lexis 25742 (N.D. Ill.).
     A police officer injured by a driver's collision with her vehicle during a high-speed chase could pursue a claim for underinsured motorist benefits against her auto insurer. There were factual issues as to whether her recovery for injuries were barred by the "fireman's rule" under Iowa law, since an exception to that rule provides that the officer is not barred from recovery if the person responsible for the police presence engages in intentional conduct which harms the officer once the officer is present. If the collision was an accident negligently caused, there could be no recovery under the "fireman's rule," but the officer would be entitled to recovery if the driver intentionally crashed into her vehicle, so further proceedings were required. Cornwell v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, No. 4:03-CV-40650, 396 F. Supp. 2d 1020 (S.D. Iowa 2005). [N/R]
     Police officer who was struck by an allegedly uninsured motorist while in the street directing traffic had no claim under the uninsured motorist provisions of auto insurance issued to the department. The policy's uninsured motorist coverage was limited to employees of the department injured while occupying a covered vehicle, and the officer was not "occupying" a police vehicle at the time of the accident. The officer's uninsured motorist claim was also barred under the "exclusive remedy" provision of the Connecticut workers' compensation statute. Gomes v. Massachusetts Bay Insurance Company, No. 24409, 866 A.2d 704 (Conn. App. 2005). [N/R]
     Liability insurance policy issued to city did not provide coverage for police officer and another city employee on claims that they allegedly sexually assaulted arrestees because their alleged conduct was outside the scope of their employment. Employers Mutual Casualty Company v. Mallard, No. 02-10786, 402 F.3d 1085 (11th Cir. 2005). [N/R]
     Insurer had an obligation, under law enforcement liability policy, to defend and indemnify village in class action lawsuit claiming that it had violated the Racketeer Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1961 et seq. by allowing its constables to issue traffic tickets without authority to do so, despite dispute over whether village constables had law enforcement duties. Brewer v. Village of Old Field, 311 F. Supp. 2d 382 (E.D.N.Y. 2004). [N/R]
     Delaware Supreme Court rules that state statutes waived sovereign immunity only to the extent that any loss was covered by insurance. Trial court therefore properly granted summary judgment in favor of police officer and state in lawsuit seeking to collect more than the amount of insurance available for injuries sustained by vehicle occupants in an accident involving a state police vehicle. Pauley v. Reinoehl, No. 679, 2002, 848 A.2d 561 (Del. 2004). [N/R]
     Delaware Supreme Court rules that state statute prevents the state, as owner of a police emergency vehicle, from asserting sovereign immunity as a complete defense to a personal injury claim based on the alleged negligence of the vehicle's driver, but that any liability is limited, under state law, to the amount of liability insurance purchased. Pauley v. Reinoehl, No. 679,2002, 2003 Del. Lexis 625 (2004). [2004 LR Jun]
     Under Georgia law, county which had not purchased liability insurance for damages arising from officers' negligence in the performance of their duties did not waive sovereign immunity and could not be held liable for motorists' injuries from collision with truck pursued by police. Smith v. Chatham County, No. A03A1133, 501 S.E.2d 388 (Ga. App. 2003). [N/R]
     Mississippi statute that provides that a municipality's purchase of liability insurance waives a $50,000 limitation on the amount of liability stated in the Mississippi Tort Claims Act, A.M.C. Sec. 11-46-15, did not apply to a municipality's participation the Mississippi Municipal Liability Plan (MMLP), an agreement which constituted self-insurance or a risk-sharing pool. Town's maximum liability for death of motorist killed in collision with police officer, therefore, was $50,000. Mississippi Municipal Liability Plan v. Jordan, No. 2001-IA-01590-SCT, 863 So. 2d 934 (Miss. 2003). [N/R]
     A city's sovereign immunity limiting liability for the negligence of a driver of a government vehicle except to the extent of insurance purchased did not prevent the recovery, by injured parties, of underinsured motorist benefits under their own auto insurance policy, despite a policy requirement to show damages "due by law" and a legal right to recover damages. Supreme Court of Kentucky rules that the insurer's attempt to exclude government-owned vehicles from the definition of "underinsured" vehicles was void under Kentucky state law. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company v. Hatfield, No. 2001-SCk-0969-DG, 122 S.W.3d 36 (Ky. 2003). [N/R]
     An arrestee who was suing several cities and police officers to recover damages for alleged misconduct, including false arrest, in the course of an investigation into alleged "scams" to defraud elderly women was entitled under Louisiana law to add a city's liability insurance carrier as a defendant and was entitled to a jury trial against the insurer. A state law prohibition against a jury trial on claims against a political subdivision did not apply to the political entity's liability insurer. Smith v. City of Lake Charles Police Department, No. 03-155, 858 So. 2d 869 (La. App. 3d Cir. 2003). [N/R]
     Insurance policy issued to city for public officials and employment practices liability did not provide coverage for claims that city and police officers intentionally violated federally protected civil rights of African-American citizens. Coverage was barred under both "deliberate act" exclusion and "law enforcement" exclusion stated in the terms of the policy. Clarendon National Insurance Company v. City of York, Pennsylvania, 290 F. Supp. 2d 500 (M.D. Pa. 2003). [N/R]
     County's purchase of liability insurance on vehicle used by sheriff's deputy in high-speed chase waived any defense of sovereign immunity on claims asserted by motorist for injuries to herself and her daughter when struck by vehicle deputy was pursuing. Summary judgment was still properly entered for deputy, however, as plaintiff failed to show that deputy acted in reckless disregard of proper procedure during the pursuit. Standard v. Hobbs, 589 S.E.2d 634 (Ga. App. 2003). [N/R]
     Insurer of parked police cruiser assisting motorist with stalled motor vehicle was liable for the payment of no-fault benefits to surviving spouse of motorcyclist and motorcyclist's passenger, after motorcyclist's collision with police car. Police cruiser's status as an emergency vehicle did not bar insurer's liability under Michigan law, and police cruiser was "involved in the accident" as defined in the no-fault statute. Amy v. MIC General Insurance Corp., No. 237055, 670 N.W.2d 228 (Mich. App. 2003). [N/R]
     Under Connecticut law, state statutory requirement that sheriffs purchase personal liability insurance for damages caused by their wrongful acts was not a legislative waiver of sovereign immunity for claims against the state and sheriffs in their official capacity. The purpose of the statute was to protect the public from the sheriffs' acts and hold the sheriffs personally liable, not to authorize claims against the government. Connecticut Supreme Court also holds that an exception to sovereign immunity for acts by state officers in excess of their legal authority only applies to lawsuits seeking injunctive or declaratory relief, and does not authorize claims for monetary damages, overruling prior caselaw. Miller v. Egan, No. 16730, 828 A.2d 549 (Conn. 2003). [N/R]
     Nebraska county's purchase of liability insurance with limits in excess of $1 million liability cap in state Tort Claims Act did not waive the county's protection under that cap. Nebraska Supreme Court upholds trial court decision limiting total recovery of motorist injured in auto accident with police patrol car to $1 million. Motorist was entitled, in addition to $1 million damage award, to $5,822.67 in expenses incurred in proving that his medical expenses were fair and reasonable. Salazar v. Scotts Bluff County, No. S-02-656, 665 N.W.2d 659 (Neb. 2003). [N/R]
     City's purchase of liability insurance did not constitute a waiver of governmental immunity under Georgia state law for claims against the city by an arrestee seeking damages for the actions of an officer on the basis of purported false arrest and imprisonment, and malicious prosecution, and the city's own alleged negligent hiring and retention of the officer. Reese v. City of Atlanta, No. A03A0896, 583 S.E.2d 584 (Ga. App. 2003). [N/R]
     Insurance claims adjuster's interviews of officers after incident where they allegedly tackled an individual and injured his shoulder following a disturbance in a parking lot were not protected by attorney-client privilege or work product privilege from discovery in litigation federal civil rights lawsuit because they were not conducted in anticipation of litigation. Claims adjuster's interviews of witnesses to the incident, however, were protected under the work product privilege because they were conducted in anticipation of litigation. Garcia v. City of El Centro, 214 F.R.D. 587 (S.D. Cal. 2003). [N/R]
     City which was self-insured was required under Connecticut law to provide only the statutory minimum in underinsured motorist coverage to an officer it employed, so that when the officer settled with the motorist for an amount equal to that minimum, the city was not liable to the officer as an underinsured motorist insurer for the officer's claimed injuries in excess of that amount. Serra v. City of West Haven, No. 22992, 822 A.2d 1018 (Conn. App. 2003). [N/R]
     Actions by driver of stolen vehicle in trying to intentionally hit an officer are ruled to be an "accident" by the New Jersey Supreme Court for purposes of an officer's claim for uninsured motorist benefits against his own vehicle insurer. Shaw v. City of Jersey City, 811 A. 2d 404 (N.J. 2002). [N/R]
     City, in purchasing liability insurance for liability of more than $2 million but less than $4 million, waived its statutory immunity under North Carolina law for the negligent conduct of its officers to the extent of the insurance, and could be sued, along with its officer, for detainee's alleged damages in excess of $3 million arising out of a collision of the officer's vehicle with another car while the plaintiff was riding in it while in custody. Defendant officer, in his official capacity, shared both the city's immunity and its waiver of immunity. See N.C.G.S.A. Sec. 160A-485. Clayton v. Branson, No. COA02-65, 570 S.E.2d 253 (N.C. App. 2002). [N/R]
     City waived any defense of sovereign immunity in lawsuit brought by motorist injured during police chase by participating in a liability risk pool on the date when the accident occurred. It could not reclaim its waiver of sovereign immunity by ceasing to participate in the state risk pool, in the absence of consent by the plaintiff motorist. Cromwell v. Rapid City Police Department, No. 21582, 632 N.W.2d 20 (S.D. 2001). [N/R]
     343:105 Federal trial court bars evidence of prior unrelated departmental disciplinary actions against officer accused by arrestee of excessive use of force, as well as evidence about the existence of liability insurance; testimony about whether the arrestee actually hit his wife before the police arrived was not relevant to whether the officer used improper force. Munley v. Carlson, 125 F. Supp. 2d 1117 (N.D. Ill. 2000).
     {N/R} City failed to show, as a matter of law, that it had not waived its governmental immunity for alleged false arrest, malicious prosecution and other claims when it bought an insurance policy arguably providing coverage for such wrongdoing. Houpe v. City of Statesville, No. COA96-1272, 497 S.E.2d 82 (N.C. App. 1998).
     266:29 City's insurance carrier was required to provide defense for officers who allegedly fabricated case against arrestee in order to coverup their own misappropriation of funds provided to pay informants; Alabama Supreme Court holds that insurance policy, because ambiguous in its exclusions, must be construed against insurance company Titan Indemnity Co v. Riley, 641 So.2d 766 (Ala 1994).
     Fact that city and officer's insurer paid medical expenses for injured motorist and her son was admissible in lawsuit to show that city and officer admitted liability for collision Cochran v. Watson, 628 So.2d 407 (Ala 1993).
     Purchase of liability insurance by county did not waive governmental immunity Dickens v. Thorne, 429 S E 2d 176 (N.C. App. 1993).
     Iowa Supreme Court holds that city must engage in collective bargaining with police union over providing liability insurance for officers covering claims for punitive damages; providing indemnification for officers if city failed to provide required liability insurance was not, however, a topic of mandatory bargaining Waterloo Police Protective Assn v. PERB, 497 N.W.2d 833 (Iowa 1993).
     Georgia state statute that purported to give municipality sovereign immunity violated state constitutional provision waiving sovereign immunity to the extent that liability insurance was purchased; court overturns judgment for city in suit arising out of damages caused by vehicle subjected to high-speed pursuit by officers Hiers v. City of Barwick, 414 S.E.2d 647 (Ga 1992).
     City's defense of sovereign immunity to negligence claim for not responding to burglar alarm should not have been accepted by Mississippi trial court without submission of city's insurance agreement; sovereign immunity was waived to the extent insurance provided liability coverage Scott v. City of Biloxi, 592 So.2d 1003 (Miss 1991).
     Insurance policy which contained conflicting provisions as to whether coverage was provided for certain claims against law enforcement agency would be interpreted in the manner most favorable to the insured Lincoln National Health & Cas Ins Co v. Brown, 782 F.Supp. 110 (M.D. Ga 1992).
     County's "errors and omissions" insurer was not liable for a $41,496 award of attorneys' fees against the county in plaintiff's prevailing civil rights suit Sullivan County, Tennessee v. Home Indemnity Co, 925 F.2d 152 (6th Cir. 1991).
     Auto insurance policy containing exclusion for injuries to "employees" did not apply to injuries to a deputy in an auto accident when deputy was not covered by workers' compensation coverage Veillon v. U.S. Fire Insurance, 590 so 2d 1368 (La App. 1991).
     Automobile exclusion clause in general liability policy issued to city precluded coverage for injuries to pedestrian hit by police vehicle chasing suspect; claim for negligence in training officers in the use of vehicles was also outside of policy coverage McPherson v. Michigan Mut Ins Co, 412 S.E.2d 445 (SC App. 1991).
     Officer's acts in forcing woman to perform oral sex were not within the scope of his employment; city's insurance carrier was not liable for paying $7 million judgment against officer, since his assault was not a "law enforcement activity" McLaren v. Imperial Casualty and Indemnity Company, 767 F.Supp. 1364 (N.D.Tex. 1991).
     Plaintiff lost both testicles during airport assault; city accused of negligent provision of adequate police services at airport waived sovereign immunity to the extent of insured amount under airport liability policy Stryker v. City of Atlanta, 738 F.Supp. 1423 (N.D.Ga 1990).
     Insurance policy exclusion for hazards "arising out of" operation of police department barred coverage for alleged participation of officers in kidnapping and beating of man Murdock v. Dinsmoor, 892 F.2d 7 (1st Cir. 1989).
     Intentional acts of assault properly excluded from insurance policy's coverage; $436,11517, judgment not covered Klatt v. Continental Insurance Company, 409 N.W.2d 366 (S.D.1987).
     Town and insurance company dismissed from garnishment proceedings Berry v. McLemore, 795 F.2d 452 (5th Cir. 1986).

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