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St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co. v. City of Zion

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

September 10, 2014

ST. PAUL FIRE AND MARINE INSURANCE COMPANY, Plaintiff and Counterdefendant-Appellee,
v.
THE CITY OF ZION, THE COUNTY OF LAKE, KEVIN HARRIS, MARK CURRAN, TIMOTHY JONITES, and ROBERT DEVER, Defendants (Jerry Hobbs III, Defendant-Appellant; the City of Waukegan, Domenic Capelluti, Charles Schletz, and William Valko, Defendants and Counterplaintiffs; Illinois County Risk Management Trust, Intervenor-Appellant; and American Alternative Insurance Corporation, Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's London, and Princeton Excess and Surplus Lines Insurance Company, Intervenors)

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 10-MR-2227. Honorable Margaret J. Mullen, Judge, Presiding.

SYLLABUS

In an action arising from a dispute over the insurance coverage for the malicious prosecution claim filed by the underlying individual against defendant city alleging that two of the city's police officers coerced him into confessing to the murder of his daughter and her friend, the trial court properly entered summary judgment for plaintiff insurer on the ground that the occurrence triggering the malicious prosecution claim was the filing of the criminal complaint, which occurred on May 9, 2005, but coverage under a series of policies issued by plaintiff did not become effective until after the date the criminal complaint was filed.

Michael W. Rathsack, of Michael Rathsack Law Office, of Chicago, and Kathleen T. Zellner and Douglas H. Johnson, both of Kathleen T. Zellner & Associates, P.C., of Downers Grove, for appellants.

Daniel G. Litchfield, Dennis M. Dolan, and Laura L. Milnichuk, all of Litchfield Cavo, LLP, of Chicago, for appellee.

JUSTICE ZENOFF delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Schostok and Hudson concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

ZENOFF, JUSTICE.

Page 194

[¶1] The issue in this appeal is whether a malicious-prosecution claim filed by Jerry Hobbs III against the City of Zion and its police officer Kevin Harris triggered coverage under an insurance policy that St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company issued to Zion. Resolution of this issue depends upon whether the occurrence triggering coverage under the policy is the commencement of the alleged malicious prosecution or its termination in favor of the accused. We hold that, under the unambiguous language of the policy, the occurrence triggering coverage is the commencement

Page 195

of the alleged malicious prosecution. Here, that occurrence took place outside the policy period. Therefore, we affirm the grant of summary judgment in St. Paul's favor.

[¶2] I. BACKGROUND

[¶3] Hobbs was charged with murdering his eight-year-old daughter and her nine-year-old friend. After DNA evidence excluded Hobbs as the perpetrator, and after Hobbs had spent five years in jail awaiting trial, the charges were dismissed. On December 1, 2010, Hobbs filed a federal action against Zion, Harris, and a number of other defendants. Hobbs v. Cappelluti, 899 F.Supp.2d 738, 752 (N.D.Ill. 2012). Hobbs alleged that Harris and the other defendant officers coerced him into falsely confessing to the murders. Among other claims, Hobbs alleged malicious prosecution under Illinois law. Hobbs, 899 F.Supp.2d at 752.

[¶4] After Hobbs initiated the federal action, St. Paul filed this declaratory judgment action in the circuit court of Lake County against Zion, Harris, Hobbs, and other defendants. In its complaint, St. Paul alleged that it issued a series of insurance policies to Zion for periods covering December 1, 2006, to December 5, 2010,[1] all of which included law enforcement liability coverage. The complaint alleged that, although the State dismissed Hobbs's murder charges on August 4, 2010, which was within the 2009-10 policy period, it filed the murder charges on May 9, 2005, prior to the effective date of the first policy. St. Paul sought a declaration that the allegations of Hobbs's federal complaint did not trigger coverage under the ...


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