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Caffery, Oubre, Campbell & Garrison, L.L.P.
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Insurers duly focused on policyholders’ opioid-linked claims

It immediately makes sense why drug manufacturers would seek coverage from insurers against claims that opioid-linked addictions and resulting harms spiked following their alleged downplaying of known drug risks for users.

And it makes just as much sense why insurance companies would aggressively seek to avoid a coverage duty and, as a recent national article notes, “make sure they’re not stuck with the bill” in such cases.

The strongly addictive properties of pain-killing opioids are a front-and-center concern currently for American legislators, safety regulators, law enforcers and myriad other concerned parties. Increasingly, the debate centering on strategies to curb the spiraling number of tragic outcomes linked with opioid abuse/addiction focuses on alleged wrongdoing by drug makers, distributors and pharmacies. Select actors in those realms are accused of hiding the risks of addiction to make outsized profits.

Lawsuits are now piling up in the wake of injury/death claims, and corporate defendants are routinely trying to pass along the risks to their insurers. Their argument in doing so stresses that, even absent specific opioid-linked policy language, they are covered against risks because their policies comprehensively safeguard against general liability.

As the above-cited Bloomberg article notes, insurers are understandably pushing back hard against such reasoning.

“It really is a core question about how insurance works and whether this type of case can be shoe-horned into the insurance policy,” says one insider commentator.

It is logical why drug-industry policyholders are trying to force a fit. Bloomberg reports “massive” and progressively growing litigation targeting them for wrongdoing and compensation in opioid injury cases. They want to shed as much liability as possible and have logically turned to their policies in attempts to spotlight language that might reasonably seem to provide for coverage.

Insurers are having none of it and are aggressively resisting arguments that they bear any liability in matters where their policyholders face opioid-related damage demands.

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