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Northfield Insurance Company and St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company v. City of Waukegan et al

December 27, 2010

NORTHFIELD INSURANCE COMPANY AND ST. PAUL FIRE AND MARINE INSURANCE COMPANY, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF WAUKEGAN ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge David H. Coar

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Northfield Insurance Company and St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company seek a declaratory judgment that they need not defend or indemnify the City of Waukegan, or police officers Michael Urbancic, William Biang, Phil Stevenson, Miguel Juarez, David Deprez, who are defendants in a § 1983 suit brought by Bennie Starks in this Court. (See Case No. 09 CV 348.) The plaintiff insurance companies move for summary judgment, arguing that the matters at issue in Starks's underlying lawsuit do not fall within the timeframe covered by the relevant insurance policies. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The Underlying § 1983 Action

The facts alleged in the underlying lawsuit are as follows:*fn1

On January 19, 1986, a woman reported to the Waukegan police that she had been dragged into a ravine, beaten, and raped by an unknown attacker. Several days later, Bennie Starks was arrested for that crime. He was subsequently convicted at the conclusion of a jury trial held in 1986, and he was ultimately sentenced to 60 years' imprisonment. Starks's conviction and sentence were upheld on appeal. Although Starks continued to fight his conviction while imprisoned, it was not until post-conviction proceedings that DNA testing excluded Starks as the source of the semen found in the victim's body and on her clothing. On March 23, 2006, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed the denial of Starks's post-conviction petition and vacated his convictions for aggravated criminal sexual assault and attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault. Curiously, however, the Appellate Court did not address Starks's outstanding conviction for aggravated battery even though Starks's defense at trial was that he was wrongly identified. As far as the Court understands, Starks's criminal defense counsel is continuing efforts to obtain relief from Starks's aggravated battery conviction. In any event, Starks was released from prison on bond on October 4, 2006, and the Illinois Appellate Court issued a formal mandate reversing Starks's sexual assault convictions on January 20, 2007. Starks currently awaits retrial on the charges underlying these convictions. His trial is scheduled for March 2011.

After serving 20 years in prison for a crime he claims he did not commit, Starks brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking damages related to his alleged wrongful conviction and imprisonment. On January 20, 2009, Starks filed a four-count complaint against the City of Waukegan, five Waukegan police officers, and three experts who testified at his trial. Count I of Starks's complaint alleges that the individual Defendants engaged in a conspiracy to commit various acts of misconduct that deprived him of his right to a fair trial and led to his wrongful conviction. Count II alleges a § 1983 claim for malicious prosecution in violation of the fourth and fourteenth amendments. Specifically, Starks alleges that Defendants arrested and prosecuted him while concealing their awareness that they acted without probable cause. In a footnote to Count II, Starks acknowledges that the Seventh Circuit does not recognize a cause of action for malicious prosecution under § 1983. Under Count III, Starks asserts a Monell policy claim against the City of Waukegan. Count IV asserts an indemnification claim against the City of Waukegan pursuant to the Illinois Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 10/9-102.

With respect to all counts in his complaint, Starks alleges that "[a]s a direct result of the egregious misconduct of the defendants in obtaining and continuing [his] wrongful conviction and malicious prosecution, [he] suffered loss of his freedom for more than 20 years, and continues to suffer from the restrictions imposed by the pending prosecution as well as extreme physical and mental pain and suffering." (Starks v. Waukegan, No. 09-cv-00348, Dkt. 1 at ¶ 38.) Starks alleges further that Defendants' actions "continue to this date, have caused and continue to cause [his] constitutional rights to be violated and the injuries, pain, suffering, fear, mental anguish, detention, imprisonment, humiliation, defamation of character and reputation, and loss of freedom and companionship," as set forth in the remainder of his complaint. (Id. at ¶ 41.)

On February 4, 2010, this Court stayed Starks's § 1983 action pending the resolution of his state court criminal proceedings. Starks, 2010 WL 481290, at *2. The Court concluded specifically that, because "Starks remains convicted of aggravated battery and awaits trial on pending charges of aggravated criminal sexual assault and attempted aggravated criminal sexual assault, no cause of action pursuant to § 1983 has yet accrued." Id.

The Insurance Policies

1.Northfield Policies

The following Northfield policies are at issue in this case:*fn2

 Policy No. AA101050, which was effective annually from November 1, 1991 to November 1, 1994;

 Policy No. A101117, which had a stated policy period of November 1, 1994 to November 1, 1997, but was canceled as of November 1, 1995.

These policies, which were in effect from November 1, 1991 until November 1, 1995, include coverage for law enforcement liability, providing specifically:

Underwriters hereby agree, subject to the limitations, terms and conditions hereunder mentioned, to indemnify the Assured for all sums which the Assured shall be obligated to pay by reason of errors, omissions or negligent acts arising out of the performance of the Assured's duties while acting as a law enforcement official or officer in the regular course of public employment as hereinafter defined, arising out of any occurrence from any cause on account of Personal Injury, Bodily ...


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