INSURANCE-RELATED COURT CASES
Digested from case reports published online
A blow for the opioid crisis
Rite Aid Corporation, Rite Aid Headquarters Corporation, and Rite Aid of Maryland, Inc., held a general liability policy issued by Chubb, Limited. Rite Aid and others were defendants in multi-district litigation before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio (the “MDL Opioid Lawsuits”). Plaintiffs in that suit filed over 1,000 suits against companies in the pharmaceutical supply chain for their roles in the national opioid crisis. Certain suits were bellwether suits, including the complaints of Summit and Cuyahoga counties in Ohio, which were at issue here. The question this case presented for the Delaware supreme court was whether policies covering lawsuits “for” or “because of” personal injury required insurers to defend their insureds when the plaintiffs in the underlying suits expressly disavowed claims for personal injury and sought only their own economic damages.
The superior court decided that Rite Aid’s insurers were required to defend it against lawsuits filed by two Ohio counties to recover opioid-epidemic-related economic damages. As the court held, the lawsuits sought damages “for” or “because of” personal injury because there was arguably a causal connection between the counties’ economic damages and the injuries to their citizens from the opioid epidemic. Rite Aid appealed.
The supreme court reversed, finding that the plaintiffs, governmental entities, sought to recover only their own economic damages, specifically disclaiming recovery for personal injury or any specific treatment damages. Thus the carriers did not have a duty to defend Rite Aid under the governing insurance policy.
Rite Aid Corporation et al. v. Ace American Insurance Company et al.—Supreme Court of the State of Delaware—April 19, 2021—No. 339, 2020.