Va. Judge Dismisses GOP Case Against Insurer over Eavesdropping

October 17, 2005

The insurer for the Virginia Republican Party is not obligated to pay the almost $1 million that the party sought to cover expenses incurred in settling an eavesdropping lawsuit.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Dennis W. Dohnal dismissed the claim by the GOP against Union Insurance Co., which had declined to make payment.

In December, the party paid 34 Democratic legislators $750,000 to settle a federal complaint alleging the GOP violated their privacy rights by spying on two conference call discussions of legal strategy in March 2002. The state GOP contended that the liability insurance company breached its contract by not covering the $750,000. TheGOP also sought the insurer to cover $200,000 for legal bills from the case.

“The acts complained of arose from a willful violation of a penal statute by agents of the Plaintiff and thus the claims were excluded from coverage,” Dohnal wrote, adding, “Union had a right to decline coverage.”

The party had contended that the eavesdropping was the mischief of rogue operatives acting without party authorization or knowledge. Because the party was a victim and not a culprit, the lawsuit argued, Union should have provided coverage.

The lawsuit arose from the illegal intercepts of conference calls Democrats and Gov. Mark R. Warner held to discuss the Democratic court challenge to the GOP-drawn reapportionment. Edmund A. Matricardi III, then the state GOP executive director, secretly logged on to both calls, recorded them and took notes.

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