Gage County Gets Update on Beatrice Six Insurance Coverage

BEATRICE – A Lincoln law firm told Gage County officials today that there is good reason for the county to challenge that insurance coverage was not in place that could cover the $28.1 million jury award against the county, in the Beatrice Six case.

The Nebraska Intergovernmental Risk Management Association and EMC Insurance have both taken the position no coverage existed.

Attorney Joel Nelson of the Keating, O’Gara law firm says its’ worth challenging that position, perhaps through the Nebraska Supreme Court or an appellate court.

:27                  “accepting, a no”

The law firm was hired by the county to look into the matter of insurance, and over 100 hours of time has been spent by the firm to this point, researching the issue.   The firm is being paid at the rate of about $190 per hour.

The six people convicted in 1989 and later exonerated of involvement in the Helen Wilson rape and murder in 1985, filed suit in 2009.

Nelson says the focus has been on the NIRMA insurance pool the county belongs to, and EMC Insurance……the most likely sources of potential insurance coverage.

:09                  “denials of coverage”

Beyond that, Nelson said the county would have a basis for asking a judge to determine whether insurance coverage existed that might help the county.

:31                  “legal questions”

Nelson and attorney Joel Bacon spoke to Gage County supervisors in open session, just prior to meeting with the board in closed session to discuss more details of the matter.

EMC did provide certain policies for Gage County in 1989…..and NIRMA began providing coverage in 1997.   Gage County remains with NIRMA, today.  Nelson says it appears retroactive coverage existed through NIRMA, effective on the date of August 2nd, 1989……around the same time of the convictions in the Beatrice Six cases.  Nelson said of the review, “there are a lot of moving parts and a lot of unanswered questions”.

While Gage County investigates insurance coverage , the Gage County Democratic Party is asking the State of Nebraska to provide funds to cover the $28.1 federal district jury award.

The county is getting support from two former state lawmakers, George “Bill” Burrows of Adams and Norm Wallman of Cortland.

Burrows told county supervisors Wednesday he believes the state has an obligation to assist.  He says the property tax implications are huge.

:24                  “see this happen”

Former State Senator Norm Wallman says in the past, state government has balanced its books on the backs of counties, removing state reimbursement for services counties have provided.

:05                  “legal system”

Burrows used his appearance before the board to also support the legislature’s repeal of the death penalty this past session, overriding Governor Pete Ricketts’ veto.   The question will be before voters in the November election, whether to reinstate the death penalty.

The Beatrice Six spent more than 70 years of combined time in state prison, before DNA evidence pointed to the involvement of a drifter, Bruce Allen Smith in the murder and rape.  Smith died in Oklahoma in 1992.