Seeking the Same Remedy Against the Same Parties in a Different Jurisdiction is Improper
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In St. Paul Fire And Marine Insurance Company v. Amerisourcebergen Drug Corporation, and Bellco Drug Corporation v. ACE American Insurance Company and ACE Property And Casualty Insurance Company, No. 21-0036, Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia (November 15, 2021) insurers sought to reverse an order of a West Virginia Trial court enjoining them from pursuing a suit in California.
An anti-suit injunction is an order barring parties to an action in this state from instituting or prosecuting substantially similar litigation in another state. Whether the foreign state action is substantially similar involves assessing (1) the similarity of the parties; (2) the similarity of the issues; and (3) the capacity of the action in this state to dispose of the foreign state action. An anti-suit injunction is appropriate when equity compels the circuit court:
1. to address a threat to the court’s jurisdiction;
2. to prevent the evasion of an important public policy;
3. to prevent a multiplicity of suits that result in delay, inconvenience, expense, inconsistency, or will be a “race to judgment”; or
4. to protect a party from vexatious, inequitable or harassing litigation.
Over the last two decades, the United States has experienced an epidemic of overdose deaths involving prescription and illicit opioid medications. Governments, businesses and individuals have sued the pharmaceutical distributors that sold prescription opioid medicines and “seek to recover billions in governmental and economic costs allegedly incurred in providing a wide array of public services in response to the influx of opioids into their communities.
The injunction is directed, not to the court, but to the litigant parties, and in no manner denies the jurisdiction of the legal tribunal.
Insurance disputes over a multiplicity of lawsuits against an insured in multiple jurisdictions raises serious problems for the courts where the suits are brought. West Virginia’s courts spent a great deal of time and trouble to resolve the suits before it and obviously became concerned when a party tried to go to another forum to receive a “better” result against the same parties. The injunction was proper but it needs to be more carefully drafted to be fair to the parties.
© 2021 – Barry Zalma
Barry Zalma, Esq., CFE, now limits his practice to service as an insurance consultant specializing in insurance coverage, insurance claims handling, insurance bad faith and insurance fraud almost equally for insurers and policyholders.