February 25, 2020

February 24, 2020

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Allegation That Insured Failed To Request Emergency Medical Assistance To Plaintiff’s Decedent Who Had Ingested Methadone Triggered Duty To Defend

After an evening out with friends, plaintiff’s 21-year-old died of Methadone intoxication in the bedroom of a defendant who lived at his parents’ home. Decedent’s father filed a wrongful death case against defendant and his parents. The underlying complaint alleged the defendant son failed to request emergency medical assistance within a reasonable time after discovering decedent had ingested Methadone or other illegal substances. Allied issued homeowners and umbrella coverage with both policies excluding liability for bodily injury "arising out of the use" of controlled substances. In a declaratory judgment action, the trial court ruled Allied had no duty to defend based on the exclusion.

The First District reversed. An insurer has a duty to defend should any theory of recovery allege potential coverage. While the allegation of intentional delivery of the fatal drug would remain outside of coverage, the duty to defend is not extinguished when negligence is also alleged. Therefore, Allied had a duty to defend allegations that the son failed to request emergency medical assistance for decedent within a reasonable time after discovering she ingested Methadone or other illegal substances. Skolnik v. Allied Property & Cas. Ins. Co., 2015 IL App (1st) 142438.

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Success in litigating insurance coverage issues hinges on understanding both the interpretation of insurance policies and the handling of claims. These key elements pervade every phase of the business from taking the application, through underwriting, and policy issuance. The members of our firm's insurance coverage practice group understand these elements and the important role they play in risk management.