A serious and important question in a life insurance policy case can be: Is a death caused by a drug overdose an “accident” or is it an intentional act that can permit an insurer to deny benefits under the terms of the policy?
Courts in the Sixth Circuit have wrestled with this issue for decades, but they now appear to agree that, barring evidence that the insured intended to commit suicide, a drug overdose should be deemed an accident, and not an intentional act. (Federal district courts in Tennessee are in the Sixth Circuit)
In Andrus v. AIG Life Ins. Co., (N.D. Ohio 2005), the Plaintiff was the beneficiary of her husband’s life insurance policy. The life insurance policy was governed by ERISA. The Plaintiff was denied benefits after her husband overdosed on prescription medication, including OxyContin. Under the terms of the life insurance policy, coverage was available only in the event her husband’s death was an accident. The policy did not define the term “accident;” however, it excluded coverage from death caused by intentionally self-inflicted and suicidal acts.