Claims stemming from the manufacture, sale, distribution and prescription of opioid products continue to proliferate, fueling opioid liability as an historic mass tort.  Claims asserted in lawsuits brought by state and local governments include allegations of negligence, fraudulent misrepresentation, violation of consumer protection statutes, public nuisance, unjust enrichment, antitrust violations, and claims for medical monitoring and injunctive relief, among others.  In December 2017, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered the consolidation of approximately 200 then pending opioid related cases into a multidistrict litigation before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, styled In Re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation (MDL No. 2804) (the “MDL”). It was recently reported that two pharmacy chains involved in the opioid MDL are suing 500 physicians alleging it is the doctors, not the pharmacists, who are to blame for faulty prescriptions.  At the end of last week, the judge handling the MDL allowed claims against opioid companies by union benefit plans to proceed, concluding that the plans’ claims of harm differed from the injuries to health and safety suffered by the public at large.

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In responding to a certified question from the Ninth Circuit in T-Mobile USA Inc. v. Selective Insurance Company of America, the Washington Supreme Court has held that an insurer is bound by representations regarding a party’s additional insured status contained in a certificate of insurance issued by the insurer’s authorized agent, even where the certificate contains language disclaiming any effect on coverage.  To hold otherwise, the court noted, would render meaningless representations made on the insurer’s behalf and enable the insurer to mislead parties without consequence.

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The Fall 2019 Edition of The ALI Reporter recognizes Hunton partner Lorelie S. Masters for her significant contributions to the new Restatement of the Law, Liability Insurance (RLLI). The RLLI was approved by the American Law Institute (ALI) at its 2018 Annual Meeting and published in late September 2019. In 2010, Lorie was one of 40 attorneys invited to serve as an Adviser to the Restatement, and she was heavily involved throughout the life of the eight-year project.

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Syed Ahmad, a partner in Hunton Andrews Kurth’s Insurance Coverage practice, has volunteered to serve as Chair of the ABA Minority Trial Lawyer Committee’s Programming Subcommittee. The Minority Trial Lawyer Committee (MTL) serves as a resource for minority litigators, in-house counsel and law students, aiming to foster professional development, legal scholarship, advocacy and

After a four-day trial, an Arizona federal jury found that Western Truck Insurance Services, Inc., an insurance broker, was negligent in selling Madison Alley Transportation and Logistics Inc. a business interruption policy with inadequate annual limits. Based on its finding of negligence, the jury determined that the broker was liable for $685,000 of $1,000,000 in damages suffered by Madison Alley as a result of a flood in its warehouse.  The verdict and Complaint, filed in Arizona state court before the case was removed, can be found here and here.

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A federal court in Illinois ruled recently, in Cincinnati Insurance Company v. H.D. Smith Wholesale Drug Company, that Cincinnati Insurance Company was required to indemnify H.D. Smith for a $3.5 million settlement it reached with the State of West Virginia.  The settlement resolved an action in which West Virginia alleged that H.D. Smith contributed to the state’s opioid addiction epidemic through its negligent distribution of opioid prescription drugs.

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The Third Circuit ruled on Friday that differing “occurrence” definitions can have materially different meanings in the context of whether product defect claims constitute an “occurrence” triggering coverage under general liability insurance policies. The Court held in Sapa Extrusions, Inc. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, that product claims against Sapa may be covered under policies that define an “occurrence” as an accident resulting in bodily injury or property damage “neither expected nor intended from the standpoint of the insured.”  However, the Court affirmed that coverage was not triggered under policies lacking the “expected” or “intended” limitation, reasoning that, under those policies, there was no question that the intentional manufacturing of Sapa’s product was too foreseeable to amount to an “accident.”

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California’s highest court held yesterday in Pitzer College v. Indian Harbor Insurance Co., that the state’s insurance notice-prejudice rule is a “fundamental public policy” for the purpose of choice of law analyses. This unanimous ruling, issued in response to certified questions from the Ninth Circuit, confirms and emphasizes California’s common law rule that policyholders

Increasing public concern over sexual misconduct, evidenced by the #MeToo movement and investigations into high-profile organizations such as USA Gymnastics, the Boy Scouts of America, various religious institutions, and the entertainment industry, has led to the enactment of laws that may have a major impact on the coverage litigation world. This year, eighteen states and the District of Columbia will enact laws modifying the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases, allowing victims to bring claims that otherwise would have been time-barred.

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