The Coronavirus pandemic is endangering more than lives and livelihoods. It also leads to prosecution.
Workers sue companies. Companies are suing insurers. Detainees and migrants in detention, abortion providers and gun owners are suing the federal and state governments.
Colleges, cruise lines and even China have been the target of damages lawsuits for the COVID-19 disaster. And the nation’s notoriously contentious society has only just begun.
“This first litigation is really, from our point of view, the tip of the iceberg,” said Harold Kim, president of the US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. “The level of litigation could really go in so many different directions. “
This is a topic that trial lawyers do not want to address in the midst of the pandemic, as the death toll in the United States increases by more than 1,000 every 48 hours. But their list of actual and potential victims is long, from front-line doctors and nurses, patients and victims, to employees and customers of businesses that need to be open or that should be closed.
Then there are the companies that lose millions of dollars only to find out that their insurance policies are likely to exclude pandemics. And there are insurers facing the likelihood of monumental claims that they might not be able to pay, which leads to calls for a government bailout or a 9/11 victim compensation fund.
“You have the pandemic and then you have the government response to the pandemic” with business closings and social closings, said Jimi Grande, senior vice president of government affairs at the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies.
“The challenge is how many and how many, because we have a massive new problem facing the government.”
The hardest hit nursing homes in the country are among the most obvious targets of the lawsuits, many of which were taken by surprise as patients quickly succumbed to the coronavirus.
Another high-risk industry: cruises on which passengers have been trapped for days at sea, unable to land as the virus spreads.
More:Centuries-old laws could protect the cruise industry from huge disbursements in coronavirus combinations
Securities lawsuits are likely to be filed by shareholders, claiming that the actions or omissions of Wall Street CEOs have reduced the value of their shares. Contractual disputes concerning canceled events are inevitable, which leads to battles over the fine print of “force majeure” clauses intended to define unforeseeable circumstances.
Even when the crisis subsides and companies reopen, their protocols – from cleansing to social isolation – can be conducive to legal action.
“We are seeing a collision of old laws and new frameworks of justice that will collide with all the new facts,” said Barb Dawson, senior partner at Snell & Wilmer, who chairs the litigation section of the American Bar Association. . an entirely new world. ”
False claims, price increases
There is a class action filed last week by the American Federation of Government Employees, accusing workers of being denied payment for their unsafe service charges after being exposed to the coronavirus at the Department of Veterans Affairs and Prisons Office of agriculture.
“Our people are getting sick,” said David Borer, general counsel for the union. “We are ready to carry it out. We are there for the long term. “
There are lawsuits brought by restaurateurs seeking “interruption of business” insurance coverage. Several of the most famous, including Thomas Keller and Wolfgang Puck, have created an organization under the title “We Are BIG”, for Business Interruption Group.
“We need insurance companies to do the right thing and save millions of jobs,” says its website. “If the insurers don’t start paying the insurance claims, we will take a BIG legal action in every state.
False advertising allegations have been made to manufacturers of hand sanitizers and a pharmaceutical company calling for swift action on a coronavirus vaccine. Price allegations have been raised following examples of exorbitant prices on Amazon and other online retailers.
The list of lawsuits goes on and on. Students and parents are suing the Arizona Board of Regents, seeking reimbursement for room and board fees paid to the three closed state universities. Immigration and prisoner rights groups have sued the federal and state governments, demanding inhuman conditions and demanding early release.
Lawsuits preventing states from eliminating access to abortions during the pandemic have been filed in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, Ohio and Oklahoma, and abortion rights groups have won early victories. Lawsuits have also been brought by gun rights activists in California, New Jersey, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, who sought to remain open as essential businesses.
“You may have the right …”
There will be more to come. Much more.
Click on “Top Class Actions” and you will get this advice: “If you think that your rights have been violated by a company following the coronavirus pandemic, you may be entitled to compensation. Fill out the form on this page for more information. “
Some of the largest law firms in the country are bringing together lawyers from different fields to create new practice groups, task forces and resource centers on coronaviruses.
Businesses and insurance companies are preparing for an attack. “I am concerned that the plaintiffs’ bar will lead to opportunistic class actions,” said Steven Lehotsky, chief counsel for the US Chamber Litigation Center.
Winning these lawsuits may not be easy. Already, Congress has protected manufacturers and distributors of breathing apparatus, as well as voluntary health care providers who are not careless or grossly negligent.
Beyond confined populations, such as patients in nursing homes and passengers on cruise ships, it can be difficult for people injured by the virus – as well as those who survive its victims – to prove how or where it was contracted.
Some of the hardest lawsuits to win will be those against governments and officials, from China to President Donald Trump and the country’s governors. A new approach has been raised in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, where a bell company and others argue that closing businesses is unpaid foreclosure.
For now, however, the head of a government union representing thousands of health workers is more focused on the crisis than the court is fighting.
“The lawsuit is going to take a long, long time,” said Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “We have an immediate problem that we have to face. “