Two men wrongfully accused in a 2006 double murder are going after Douglas County’s liability insurance carrier to recoup a multimillion-dollar judgment against the Nebraska county’s former crime lab chief.
Attorneys for Matthew Livers and Nicholas Sampson filed garnishment claims last week against the St. Paul Travelers Cos. They are seeking the $6.6 million they were awarded in a federal civil rights case against former Douglas County crime lab chief David Kofoed, the Omaha World-Herald reported.
Livers and Sampson were jailed for months after the shooting deaths of Wayne and Sharmon Stock, Livers’ aunt and uncle, in Murdock. Livers, who has a learning disability, falsely confessed during a coercive interrogation, implicating himself and his cousin Sampson in the killings.
Two Wisconsin teenagers later pleaded guilty to the killings and sentenced to life in prison. Kofoed served prison time for evidence tampering.
Sampson and Livers settled separately with state and county authorities for $2.6 million last fall. That left only the claims against Kofoed.
In March, U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon returned a verdict against Kofoed. Broke and unemployed, Kofoed says he can’t pay, so the plaintiffs’ attorneys want to tap the county’s liability policy.
The settlement with Douglas County releases the county from liability, but not its insurers. The Travelers policy has a coverage limit of $5 million, County Administrator Patrick Bloomingdale said.
Maren Chaloupka, Sampson’s attorney, said Travelers has a duty to pay the claim because it collected premiums for the policy. She said Travelers also paid for Kofoed’s private attorney for part of the case.
“That may support a finding that because Travelers signed onto Douglas County’s commitment to support Mr. Kofoed, Travelers cannot walk away from that commitment now,” Chaloupka said.
It is possible that Kofoed, as a county employee, was covered under an additional policy, said Locke Bowman, an attorney for Livers. If not, any future garnishment claims would have to be made on Kofoed’s future income.
A Travelers spokesman declined to comment.
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