Lawsuit over CTA Red Line sexual assault spurs insurance battle

By Kenneth Lowe | Jun 11, 2014

An insurance company has asked Chicago's federal court to determine it is not liable to cover damages arising out of a lawsuit stemming from a 2012 sexual assault that occurred near the Red Line's Morse station.

Houston-based Great Midwest Insurance Co. (GMIC) filed a complaint June 5 in Chicago's federal court against Omaha-based Kiewit Infrastructure Co., arguing that it should not have to pay out on a woman's claim that Kiewit did not adequately secure a transit station that was under construction on the night she was assaulted.

Reyes Group Ltd., another subcontractor working on the Chicago Transit Authority’s North Main Red Line Station Rehabilitation Project at the time and the holder of the original insurance policy in question, is named in the suit for participatory reasons, along with the woman who filed the underlying suit as Jane Doe.

GMIC alleges in its complaint that it does not have a duty to indemnify the CTA or Kiewit under the policy it issued to Reyes Group. CTA and Kiewit were designated as subcontractors on the el stop work, according to the suit that goes on to assert GMIC shouldn't be liable for their actions or omissions as subcontractors.

Filed Nov. 27, 2013, the underlying suit claims Kiewit’s construction site at the Morse Street el stop along the CTA's Red Line was unlit and unsecured on the night of Dec. 19, 2012, when an assailant came out of the dark and assaulted Jane Doe behind a pile of construction materials.

Jane Doe's suit accuses the defendants of failing "to provide a security system or security personnel during after-work hours after removing said fence and replacing it with construction barrels when it knew or should have known numerous third party criminal assaults and/or batteries and/or burglaries had occurred at the Morse Street el station."

She further alleges that the defendants “failed to adequately inspect said construction site to insure it was properly secured and illuminated pursuant to recommended industry recommended customs and practice.”

Among Doe’s allegations were that the subcontractors failed to secure the site with a fence, provide lighting during the night and other security measures. Instead of a fence securing the darkened area after-hours, the suit alleges it had a row of construction barrels.

“The cost of properly securing and illuminating said construction site would have cost Kiewit approximately 1 percent to 2 percent of said Morse el stop’s estimated construction project budget of $6.1 million,” Doe’s suit states.

While the Reyes Group’s original insurance policy does cover other persons or organizations contracted to complete work, GMIC argues it does not cover either the CTA or Kiewit in the context of the work on the Red Line project.

“[Jane Doe’s] underlying lawsuit does not allege any claims for vicarious liability against Kiewit or the CTA,” DMIC argues in its complaint. “Kiewit is not an insured or additional insured under the policy. "Therefore, no coverage is afforded to Kiewit under the policy."

DMIC further asserts "The CTA is not an insured or additional insured under the policy. Therefore, no coverage is afforded to the CTA under the policy.”

The insurance company is being represented by David T. Brown of Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker LLP.

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