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Cook County Strip-search Class-action Claimants to Receive Additional Payments

by Derek Gilna

In May 2017, insurance companiesfor Cook County, Illinois preliminarily agreed to add $52 million to a previous settlement reached in 2010 concerning blanket strip searches of prisoners held at the Cook County Jail. The agreement resolved claims related to a federal class-action lawsuit filed by former prisoners Kim Young and Ronald Johnson in Young v. County of Cook, which alleged that approximately 300,000 prisoners were strip-searched in groups without privacy as they were admitted to the jail between January 30, 2004 and March 30, 2009.

The plaintiffs had claimed in the original class-action case that the blanket strip-search policy violated the U.S. Constitution, and the county agreed to pay a $55 million settlement. The deadline for class members to seek compensation under that settlement expired in 2011. [See: PLN, Sept. 2011, p.26].

The latest agreement stems from a separate lawsuit brought against insurance companies representing Cook County, which were accused of defrauding the county to avoid paying $20 million in coverage they owed in connection with the initial Young settlement.

According to the district court, the case against the insurers went to trial in March 2016, and “[t]he jury awarded the plaintiffs treble damages of $60 million on their [Insurance Fair Conduct Act] claim, $20 million in compensatory damages for fraud, $20 million in compensatory damages for fraudulent concealment, and $20 million in punitive damages.” The court later vacated the damages, “holding that the award was cumulative and that there was insufficient evidence to support the punitive damages award as well as the verdict on the fraud and fraudulent concealment claims.”

A new trial on damages was ordered, but the parties instead reached the $52 million settlement. The agreement calls for Illinois National Insurance Company, the Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania, the Lexington Insurance Company, AIG Claims, Inc. and AIG, Inc. to pay $26 million to the Illinois state treasury and an additional $26 million to Cook County. Of those sums, a total of $32.5 million will be used to make additional payments to the original Young class members.

The settlement brought to a close a sordid chapter in the history of the Cook County Jail. For decades, the jail – one of the largest in the country – was accused of violating prisoners’ civil rights, and only recently was able to shed a federal court-appointed receiver.

Final approval of the settlement was granted by the district court on September 13, 2017. One week later, the court entered an order awarding attorney fees to the Chicago law firm of Loevy & Loevy in the amount of “one-third of the common fund, net of administrative expenses” – which would amount to over $10 million. The court also granted $10,000 incentive awards to each of the nine named plaintiffs in the case. See: Young v. County of Cook, U.S.D.C. (N.D. Ill.), Case No. 1:06-cv-00552. 

Additional sources: www.cookcounty­,


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Related legal case

Young v. County of Cook