City of Waukegan hit with $9,000,000.00 verdict; Illinois Court orders insurance company to pay

S. Alejandro Dominguez was arrested, tried and imprisoned based upon testimony from a Waukegan police officer in a bench trial.  Mr. Dominguez was released in 2002 after serving the 9 years to which he had been sentenced.  With the help of  his attorneys, the Northwestern University Center for Wrongful Conviction and modern DNA analysis, the conviction of Mr. Dominguez was overturned and the State of Illinois pardoned him in 2005.  Mr. Dominguez and his attorneys sued the officer and the City of Waukegan and after trial were awarded $9,000,000.00.

This matter is back in the news as the insurance company for Waukegan and the officer, American Safety and Casualty Co., which insured Waukegan in 2002, refused to participate in paying for the judgment and attorney’s fees from the litigation.  The insurance company argued that it did not owe coverage as the original acts of misconduct occurred in 1989 & 1990.  In this insurance coverage case, the company was found to have owed the City of Waukegan a defense of this action and coverage for the award, even though the original misconduct did not occur at the time it began providing coverage in 2002.  The basic holding of the court was that there was an ongoing course of misconduct by the continued incarceration of Mr. Dominguez.  This is a significant case and one of a series of cases which appear to raise questions on the conduct of the City of Waukegan and the Lake County (Illinois) prosecutor’s office.