Westover insurer to pay settlements totaling $1.1 million in police misconduct cases [The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va.] – InsuranceNewsNet


April 5—WESTOVER — Two separate lawsuits alleging violent misconduct by Westover Police agents were settled by the city’s civil liability insurer for a total of $1.1 million.

city ​​attorney Tim Stranko explained on Tuesday that the lawsuits filed by William Cox and Andre Howton concluded. Both cases were settled by mediation—Cox for $750,000; Howton for $350000.

“In the Howton and Cox cases, there was no admission of liability by the city or the police,” Sranko said, explaining that the city had no input and was not consulted regarding the settlements in accordance with its agreement with its civil liability insurer, the West Virginia Board of Risk and insurance.

The city pursues a policy of up to $1 million per occurrence.

“What happens when you take out this insurance policy with BRIM, like with any carrier, is that if they accept liability up to this million dollar limit, they also take the control of the dispute in the sense that they negotiate and decide if and when a settlement is indicated, how much to pay,” Sranko said. “We cede this whole prerogative in the insurance contract.

Cox sued in January 2021alleging that he was kicked, punched, pepper sprayed and falsely arrested by Westover officers Aaron Dalton and Justice Carver for recording them with his cell phone as they passed in a marked cruiser in August 2019.

The incident was captured by a camera located in a nearby business.

The lawsuit also claimed that the phone Cox recorded the entire interaction with was destroyed or otherwise disposed of by officers. Two years later, the phone was found by Carver in the department’s evidence room.

Howton’s trial was the result of an altercation over New Year’s Day 2019, during which officers Dalton and Zachary Fecsko pulled Howton from his home and beat him, based on evidence recorded by Dalton’s body camera.

Howton, a black man in his 50s, suffered a number of facial injuries, including multiple broken bones and at least three knocked out teeth.

Dalton, who spent more than a year on paid administrative leave following the incidents, has since been fired by the city.

“The money that goes into settling these cases does not come from our general fund. The impact that we will see, obviously, is our renewal rates as the policy moves forward,” Sranko said, explaining that the city paid approximately $165000 for its general liability policy, although this number has fluctuated in recent years.

“Underwriters, of course, they’re going to see those payments and look at our renewal rates. The good thing about BRIM is that it’s a state agency and they’re obligated by the legislature to support municipal operations.”

A third lawsuit, this one a real estate dispute filed by Richard Panico Sr.. against the city, mayor David Johnson and Sranko, was fired by the West Virginia Northern District Court.

In other Westover news, the city will hold its annual spring cleaning April 18-21.


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