SW Legal studies in Business

Drug Overdose from Prescription Medication Excluded from Homeowner Insurance Coverage
Description

Appeals court held that a homeowner’s insurance policy clearly excluded liability for bodily injury that arose from incidents arising from controlled substances. As a guest in a home died from an overdose of the homeowner’s prescription drug, a controlled substance, the insurer could not be held liable.

Topic Insurance
Key Words

Homeowner; Overdose; Guest; Controlled Substance

C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts

McMaster, age 18, died of an overdose after ingesting the drug propoxyphene. He was staying at the home of Scaduto. McMaster’s mother sued Scaduto, contending that he was negligent for leaving the prescription drug where it was accessible, as he knew McMaster was in a fragile emotional state. Scaduto demanded that his insurer cover the matter. The insurer brought this action, seeking a declaration that Scaduto’s homeowner insurance did not provide coverage in case of this claim. The trial court held for the insurer, holding that the claim is excluded from coverage by a provision of the policy that excludes claims for bodily injury “arising out of the use, sale, manufacture, delivery, transfer or possession by any person of a Controlled Substance as defined by the Federal Food and Drug Law.” Scaduto and McMaster’s mother appealed.

Decision

Affirmed. Even if one accepts the proposition that McMaster’s death followed from the homeowner’s negligence in leaving a legitimate prescription drug where McMaster could find it, McMaster’s use was not proper. The exclusionary clause in the insurance policy clearly eliminates liability by the insurer for such instances, as the drug was a controlled substance. Even if the court construes the clause narrowly, this instance falls under it.

Citation

Massachusetts Property Insurance Underwriting Assn. v. Gallagher, 75 Mass.App.Ct. 58 (Ct. App., Mass., 2009)

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