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.
Continue Reading Insurance Coverage for Claims Stemming From the National Opioid Crisis

Hunton Insurance attorneys Syed Ahmad and Geoffrey Fehling provided several updates on recent recall insurance disputes in the most recent edition of the Recall Roundup, posted on the Hunton Retail Law Resource Blog.
Continue Reading Insurer Seeks to Escape Coverage for Recalled Cookie Butter Jars; Poultry Distributor Settles Contamination Claim With Excess Insurer

In Ferguson v. St. Paul Fire and Marine Insurance Co., the Missouri Court of Appeals, Western District, found that a public entity liability policy covered the injuries sustained by a man that had been wrongfully convicted, notwithstanding that the policy was issued years after the relevant prosecution.  The court’s ruling is in stark contrast to the Illinois Supreme Court’s recent decision in Sanders v. Illinois Union Insurance Co., No. 124565, 2019 WL6199651 (Ill. Nov. 21, 2019), the subject of a prior blog, where the court found that it was the policies in place at the time of the wrongful prosecution that provided coverage for the offense.  In our earlier blog, we discussed the costly consequences the Sanders decision could impose on policyholders in Illinois.  Although reaching an opposite conclusion than Sanders, Ferguson is based on different policy language and, ultimately, does not appear to be inconsistent with the Sanders decision.  While certainly a welcomed decision from a policyholder’s perspective, Ferguson and Sanders highlight the importance that policy wording can play in defining the scope of an insurance program and how similar factual scenarios can result in drastically different coverages based on seemingly minor differences in policy wording.  A copy of the Ferguson decision can be found here.
Continue Reading Missouri Appeals Court Says Malicious Prosecution Injury Occurs in Each Year of Incarceration; Counter to the Illinois Supreme Court’s Recent Sanders Decision

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.
Continue Reading Opioid Settlement Triggers Insurer’s Duty to Indemnify Where Covered Claims Are “Primary Focus” of the Action

The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the First Circuit recently held that Zurich American Insurance Company was obligated to defend Electricity Maine, LLC in a class action lawsuit brought by its customers.  The case stems from alleged misconduct by Electricity Maine that resulted in customers receiving higher bills than were previously represented.  Plaintiffs Jennifer Chon and Katherine Veilleux sought to represent a class of approximately 200,000 customers seeking damages totaling approximately $35 million.  Specifically, the complaint asserted claims for negligence, negligent misrepresentation, violations under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”), 18. U.S.C. §§ 1962, 1964, and the Maine Unfair Trade Practices Act.
Continue Reading First Circuit Court of Appeals Holds That Insurer Must Defend Electricity Company Against Class Action Lawsuit

In a prior post, we discussed a New York trial-court decision that found an insurance policy issued in 1966, to insure the construction of the World Trade Center, continues to cover modern-day asbestos claims, with each claim constituting an individual occurrence.  Last week, in American Home Assurance Co. v. The Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J., 7628-7628A (1st Dep’t Nov. 15, 2018), an intermediate appellate court affirmed that decision, agreeing that coverage is triggered for claims tied to alleged asbestos exposure at the WTC site in the 1960s and ’70s.
Continue Reading New York Appellate Court Affirms 1966 Insurance Policy Continues to Cover WTC Asbestos Claims

A recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Paul Byron of the Middle District of Florida has made clear that the actual words used in an insurance contract matter. The court, in Mt. Hawley Insurance Co. v. Tactic Security Enforcement, Inc., No. 6:16-cv-01425 (M.D. FL. 2018), denied an insurance company’s motion for summary judgment attempting to rely on an exclusion to deny coverage to its policyholder.  The policyholder, Que Rico La Casa Del Mofongo, operated a restaurant establishment in Orlando, Florida, and sought coverage for two negligence lawsuits filed against it for allegedly failing to prevent a shooting and another violent incident on its premises.
Continue Reading Florida Federal Court Reinforces Principle That Precise Policy Language Is Required Before An Insurer Can Deny Coverage Based On An Exclusion

A New York trial court held last week in American Home Assurance Co. v. The Port Authority of N.Y. and N.J., Index No. 651096/2012 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. Nov. 29, 2017) (Bransten, J.) that an insurance policy issued in 1966, to insure the construction of the World Trade Center, continues to provide insurance coverage over modern-day asbestos claims, with each claim constituting an individual occurrence.
Continue Reading New York Court Finds 51-Year-Old AIG Policy Still Covers World Trade Center Asbestos Injury Claims

The Delaware Supreme Court ruled on Monday in a long-running dispute involving Viking Pump’s and Warren Pumps’ claims for recovery under primary, umbrella, and excess insurance. The Delaware high court had certified two questions to the New York Court of Appeals. The Delaware decision follows the New York high court’s ruling in May that the policies required “all sums” allocation and “vertical” exhaustion” (click here and here for prior posts).
Continue Reading Delaware Supreme Court Rules In Long-Running Viking Pump Dispute

Earlier today, FC&S Legal published an article by Hunton & Williams insurance lawyers Mike Levine and Matt McLellan, discussing the Seventh Circuit’s recent decision in Cincinnati Ins. Co. v. H.D. Smith, LLC , in which the court held that a general liability insurer must defend a West Virginia pharmaceutical distributor in litigation brought by the