Determining Whether An Insurance Company Has a Duty to Defend Acts Which Arose Years Ago Can Be Tricky Business

In 1980, Phillip Bivens, Bobby Ray Dixon, and Larry Ruffin were wrongly convicted of the rape and murder of a woman in Forrest County Mississippi. By the time they were exonerated, they’d served a collective 83 years in prison. Ruffin died in prison while Dixon and Bivens died shortly following their release. Their estates filed suit against Forrest County for the wrongful conviction. Over the decades between their wrongful conviction and their release, Forrest County purchased a series of law enforcement liability policies from various insurers. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals took a look at two of those policies, one from Scottsdale Insurance Company and one from St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Company, to determine whether either had a duty to defend the county. Find out how the terms of their policy coverage led to a duty to defend injuries caused by wrongful acts committed before the policy period.