Both the N&O and the Herald-Sun are reporting that Duke is suing its insurance company, National Union Fire Insurance Co--who Duke accuses of acting in a manner "willful, wanton, malicious, without justification or excuse." The H-S reports,
Sources close to the case say National Union is refusing to pay because it believes its policy is capped at $5 million for legal expenses and Duke has submitted legal bills -- alone -- of about $11 million to date, and that Duke refuses to accept the $5 million cap.
Duke's demands are considerable: it wants National Union to "advance and/or pay all of Duke’s Defense Costs (as defined in the insurance policies) for the Underlying Claims and the full amount of Duke’s settlement with certain claimants," and "a declaratory judgment (i) that National Union is liable to advance the costs for any future defense of Duke in connection with the Underlying Claims, and (ii) that National Union is liable for any reasonable settlement entered into by Duke in the Underlying Claims and/or any judgment entered against Duke in the Underlying Claims."
A key issue in the case seems to be the role of Duke Hospital (home, of course, of former SANE nurse-in-training Tara Levicy), and the degree to which Levicy's misconduct could or should have been supervised by Duke officials. Duke actually has two insurance carriers--National Union, which insures Duke Hospital, and United Educators Insurance, which insures Duke. The H-S reports that sources say the two companies "are bickering over which company -- if not both -- has the responsibility to pay." National Union's argument appears to be that the wrongdoing was either committed by Duke University employees, or, in the case of Levicy, a failure to supervise by Duke University employees, and therefore it has no responsibility to cover Duke's misconduct. The H-S comments section featured a telling remark: When one takes out a homeowner's insurance policy and then sets fire to his home, is the insurance company liable? When one takes out a life insurance policy and then commits suicide, should the insurance company have to pay? As far as I'm concerned, Duke negated its coverage when its administration willfully and purposefully undertook wrong and destructive actions against wrongfully accused students, thus violating its obligation to them. Every single Duke administrator who had a hand in perpetrating this gross injustice, and especially Richard Brodhead, should pay whatever damages are awarded out of his/her own pocket. Of the lacrosse scandal triumvirate of Nifong, Brodhead, and Bob Ashley, only Nifong has gone down. Ashley will, alas, remain unscathed. But Brodhead, however much he has suffered, hasn't yet suffered enough. Perhaps this will at last be the beginning of his end. It will be interesting, to say the least, to read the insurance company's response to this suit. For now, one obvious effect of the lacrosse case: given that the university hasn't acknowledged any specific errors in its handling of the case, nor made changes designed to prevent a repeat performance in future, I suspect Duke's insurance premiums will be going through the roof.
The H-S comments section featured a telling remark: