Earlier this year, I wrote an article for Carrier Management that looked at potentially emerging issues that may have not yet been captured on the risk monitors of underwriters or by the algorithms of property/casualty insurance actuaries. I started with some comments about issues that have already started to emerge—those related to GOT, or herbicide glyphosate, opioids and talc.All three have been in use for decades. Thousands of plaintiffs have filed lawsuits. In the case of opioids, cities, states and healthcare systems have also filed suits. Litigation has already begun for these issues and several multimillion-dollar verdicts have been handed down. Each of these emerging issues could result in billions of dollars in defense and indemnity costs.
There have been some recent developments related to the potential cost of GOT that are worth noting:
- On Oct. 7, 2020, Bloomberg reported that Johnson & Johnson would pay over $100 million to settle 1,000 lawsuits alleging exposure to asbestos in talcum powder resulted in their cancers. The company still reportedly faces an additional 20,000 plaintiffs.
- On the opioid front, toward the end of September, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court approval of a “negotiated class” of 33,000 towns, cities and counties that have filed suit against opioid defendants, according to Reuters. The negotiated class would have given the municipalities the opportunity to vote on whether to accept any settlement proposal. Other proposed opioid settlements worth $48 billion have been put forth outside of the rejected negotiated class proposal.
- On Sept. 15, 2020, Reuters reported that Bayer had settled another 15,000 glyphosate exposure lawsuits as part of an $11 billion settlement proposal. (Reminder, glyphosate is the active ingredient in the herbicide Roundup) The company claims to have reached settlement agreements with some 45,000 plaintiffs alleging their cancers were caused by glyphosate exposure. The company estimated it faces a total of some 125,000 filed and unfiled claims.
It seems doubtful that even a few years ago, let alone decades ago, underwriters providing coverage for the defendants involved would have priced for such potential claims activity.