Public health problems often have the potential to lead to severe and systemic liability losses. This was the case in the massive asbestos and tobacco litigation events of the 20th century, as well as the ongoing waves of litigation responding to the opioid crisis and PFAS “forever chemical” contamination in the U.S.

Executive Summary

If obesity issues have the makings of a systemic, large-loss liability event, why haven't we seen it take off yet? And what could it realistically look like if it did take off in the near future?

After noting the parallels between obesity issues and tobacco and opioid issues, Verisk's Eric Gesick explores these questions, identifying insureds that may be in the crosshairs beyond food and beverage giants.

Since the early 2000s, as the so-called obesity epidemic has increased, analysts have raised the question of whether obesity and related issues could grow into a similarly widespread liability event in which individuals, governments or other entities sue corporations to recover obesity-related costs. This type of obesity liability event has failed to take off so far, due in part to some significant legal and legislative barriers that persist today.

However, in light of recent scientific and legal developments, it’s worth taking a new look at how litigation related to obesity and nutrition-related illnesses may become a major liability event. For insurers, now is the time to begin analyzing some of the different and surprising ways an obesity- or nutrition-related liability event could impact their business, before losses from future litigation start hitting their books.

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