Skip to Navigation
The Collaborative Clearinghouse for Lawsuits and Other Claims Against ACE Group Insurance Companies

Cop Shot: ACE American Sues Lawyers in Subrogee Case

ACE American Insurance Co. has joined a fellow insurer in suing lawyers they claimed botched the defense of a client who was entangled in what turned out to be a costly product liability suit.

ACE and Federal Insurance Co., as subrogee of Safariland LLC, sued St. Louis law firm Sandberg, Phoenix & Von Gontard P.C. Also named in the petition were lawyers Keith Phoenix and W. Wylie Blair.

The ACE Group unit and Federal had sold secondary- and primary-level liability insurance, respectively, to Safariland, a Florida company that sells police and security equipment. The device at the center of this lawsuit was the “Intruder,” a shield that law enforcement officers use.

Jon Brough, a police sergeant for the City of Belleville, Ill., was wielding an Intruder on Nov. 10, 2006, when he and fellow officers stormed into a home in search of murder suspect Larry Sicka. In the chaos that ensued the fugitive shot Brough in the face with a shotgun, ending the officer’s career and blinding him.

Brough sued Safariland in Illinois state court, alleging product liability and negligence. Safariland hired the defendants to represent it. On July 15, 2011, a trial court granted Brough’s motion for a summary judgment on one aspect of the product liability claim.

ACE and Federal said that the defendants believed that decision would be reversed on appeal. They said there was ample evidence available to the lawyers that police had committed errors that contributed to Brough’s injuries.

Yet the defendants allegedly bungled the case, particularly in the handling of discovery. On the eve of the trial the judge granted plaintiffs’ motions for sanctions against the lawyers: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said the judge labeled their errors in the case as “systematic, dishonest conduct” that undermined the entire legal system

Stripped by the court of its defenses to liability, Safariland and the insurers negotiated a settlement with the Broughs.

Now, in a suit filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, ACE said that it has a right to recover that money from the defendants as a result of their alleged malpractice. ACE and Federal also asked the court to order the defendants to disgorge all fees paid to them by Safariland.

Like us on facebook!

Please note that article images are for illustrative purposes only. Images do not necessarily depict the actual facts, events, or people discussed in this story.