Monday, June 3, 2024

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Upholds Homeowner's Insurance Carrier's Denial of Coverage in a Drug Overdose Case

In the case of Kramer v. Nationwide Insurance, No. 103 MAP 2022 (Pa. April 25, 2024) (Op. by Donohue, J., Dougherty, J., Concurring, Mundy, J., Concurring), the court addressed the scope of a controlled substance abuse exclusion found in a homeowner’s policy.

According to the Opinion, the dispute between the insureds and the homeowner’s carrier arose after a fatal drug overdose of the Plaintiff's decedent within the insured Defendant's home. The family of the decedent sued the homeowners and their son for wrongful death and survival action claims.

The homeowners sought coverage under their insurance policy with Nationwide.  Nationwide denied coverage based upon a controlled substance exclusion in the policy. The homeowners then filed this declaratory judgment action.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the finding of the Superior Court that the carrier was potentially required to pay out for emotional and mental distress damages was contrary to the unambiguous provisions of the policy and erroneous as a matter of law.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court concluded that Nationwide had no duty to defend the underlying lawsuit because emotional and mental distress damages in the wrongful death claims were not "bodily injuries" as that term was considered under the policy language at issue.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.  Justice Dougherty's Concurring Opinion can be viewed HERE.  Justice Mundy's Concurring Opinion can be viewed HERE.

Source of image:  Photo by Tierra Mallorca on

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