the Constitution of the United States and the provisions of
42 U.S.C. § 1983.
It must be conceded that the Price complaint does not purport
to allege any classic common law action under the laws of
Illinois, and that the sole theory of recovery is the statutory
action for denial of federal civil rights created in the year
1871; but this determination is not considered determinative and
this Court believes a justiciable controversy does now exist.
The initial issue to be considered arises from the divergent
contentions of the parties relative to the construction of the
risks clause of the policy, with reference to the Price
Defendants contend that the risks assumed in the policy are
limited to liability imposed by virtue of any common law action
for false arrest, false imprisonment or other action based upon
the tortious conduct mentioned in that clause.
Plaintiffs take the position that the demands of the Price
complaint rest upon a charge of a false arrest or false
imprisonment, and that any liability imposed upon them would be
a liability arising "by reason of" such false arrest or false
imprisonment within the purview of the risks clause of the
The Court must apply clearly established principles of
construction to the resolution of that issue. The language used
in the policy must be given its ordinary layman's meaning, and
any ambiguous expression relied upon by the defendants to limit
their liability must be construed most strongly against them.
E.g., Canadian Radium & Uranium Corp. v. Indemnity Ins. Co.,
411 Ill. 325, 332, 104 N.E.2d 250.
Defendants drafted the contract of insurance. They employed the
language "false imprisonment" and "by reason of", without any
specialized definition. "False imprisonment" is a term which
connotes well-defined acts of commission, as well as the common
law action for the redress of such acts. The phrase "by reason
of" is defined as synonymous with the phrase "because of."
Webster's New Twentieth Century Dictionary, Unabridged, Second
Clearly, many of the material allegations of the Price
complaint are consistent with the elements of false imprisonment
as established by the law of Illinois. See, generally, I.L.P.,
False Imprisonment, §§ 1, et seq. Specifically applicable here is
the principle that unlawful detention following an arrest may
constitute a false imprisonment. Fulford v. O'Connor, 3 Ill.2d 490,
121 N.E.2d 767. As to such allegations, the Price complaint
asserts a cause of action arising "by reason of" a "false
imprisonment" within the provisions of defendants' policy of
insurance. It makes no difference that the claim is asserted in
a statutory cause of action, as distinguished from an action
grounded upon a common law tort theory.
Defendants might, expressly, have limited coverage to liability
imposed by common law or excluded civil rights actions from the
coverage afforded. They did neither.
This Court concludes that the risks clause of the policy must
be construed to cover the Price claim. Defendants cite no
precedent whatsoever except an opinion of an attorney general
from another state, which is not persuasive on this issue.
The policy does not, however, impose upon defendants the
obligation to defend the Price suit. The policy provides that the
insurers may, "if they so desire," "take over the conduct * * of
the defense of any claim" covered by the policy provisions. We
think that this provision is clear. It creates the right, but not
the obligation, to assume the conduct of the defense of the Price
It is accordingly adjudged that defendants are obligated to
plaintiffs, to the extent of the limits of liability contained in
their policy, for any liability imposed against plaintiffs in
Case No. P-2751 in this court; but that defendants
are not obligated to provide legal counsel for plaintiffs'
defense of that suit.
The costs of this action will be assessed against defendants.
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