As the world focused on the global COVID pandemic, the United States continued to battle its own unique epidemic. The opioid crisis has gripped the country for more than two decades and has only gotten worse in the past two years. Since the start of the COVID pandemic, nearly 179,000 Americans have died from opioids. The CDC estimates that about 250 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. Beyond the devastating physical toll, the opioid epidemic has also taken severe economic toll on the country. A bipartisan congressional report released earlier this year found that the opioid epidemic is costing the United States an estimated $1 trillion a year.
It is therefore not surprising that the opioid crisis has produced a flood of litigation aimed primarily at manufacturers and distributors of opioids. Many of these lawsuits involve public entities suing opioid companies for increased utility costs associated with the opioid epidemic, such as law enforcement, emergency services and facilities. treatment. These disputes have already led to monumental settlements, most recently between various drug distributors and state attorneys general for nearly $26 billion. Faced with significant verdicts and settlements, as well as the significant financial burden of defending these massive lawsuits, the targets of opioid lawsuits are looking to their insurers to defend and indemnify them. Cases interpreting the extent of the insurer’s obligations have been few and results have been inconsistent, which is likely to lead to an explosion of insurance coverage litigation while the dust settles.