A bottle of white prescription pills is spilled on a table. A collection of other prescription bottles are in the background. According to the filings, Master’s conduct “greatly contributed to the vast increase in opioid overuse and addiction” and caused “a public-health and law-enforcement crisis.” (Credit: Kimberly Boyles/Adobe Stock)

In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court of Ohio has ruled that lawsuits brought by governmental bodies against a prescription opioid distributor seeking damages merely related to opioid-related addiction and overdoses do not invoke an insurers’ duty to defend. The case is Acuity v. Masters Pharm., 2022-Ohio-3092.

Hamilton County Ohio based Masters Pharmaceutical was a wholesale distributor of pharmaceutical products that shipped prescription opioids to pharmacies across the nation, until it ceased operations in 2018. A group of more than 20 cities and counties in West Virginia, Michigan and Nevada sued Masters and several other pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors and retailers making similar claims that the companies were responsible for the opioid epidemic that was ravaging their communities. The governments alleged that Masters had failed to monitor and report suspicious opioid orders and had failed to maintain effective control against the diversion of opioid painkillers into the illegal drug market.

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