By Linda Nwoke, Special to CAW
Did you know that over 30 million lawsuits are filed each year in the United States, in state and federal trial courts? More so, more than $1.5 billion is spent in state courts to process over 14 million civil cases. Yet, the courts remain overburdened with civil lawsuits. Consequently, the courts encourage ‘out of court’ settlements or mediation and only resort to trial as a last option. Yet, there are all forms of lawsuits, including coronavirus lawsuits targeting individuals and companies on issues like profiteering during a time of crisis, preventing the spread of the disease, unjust treatment, among others.
COVID-19 Case Studies
There are several Coronavirus healthcare-related lawsuits against employers. For instance, some hospital employees claim their employment was terminated after raising concerns about the lack of available personal protective equipment. Or after reporting those other staff members, failed to wear masks correctly and did not follow social distancing guidelines in certain situations. In other instances, employers denied staff members with high-risk conditions leaves of absence. They also failed to implement proper screening, social distancing, and instituting other protective measures, which in some cases resulted in deaths from COVID-19.
Potential Reasons for COVID-19 Lawsuits
Yet, many lessons have been learned since the onset of the pandemic in 2020. From causes to prevention and managing the virus at different levels, including the loss of human lives, arguably prevented. As the Coronavirus mutates and spread, lawsuits will inevitably ensue from citizens seeking legal help in its wake to address perceived injustice. There are different reasons for initiating Coronavirus-related lawsuits. Causes can range from individual to organizational, civic to human rights, to mention a few. Some of the prevalent examples of Coronavirus related cases include the impact on workers, financial injury, business interruption insurance, price extortion, etc. The series of litigation can be attributed to the following:
COVID-19 Based Impact on Employees Lawsuit
Despite every effort, the coronavirus pandemic keeps growing, evolving from Delta variant to Omicron and the most recent ‘Flurona’, causing on-ending hardship through loss of employment and health-related issues. Many lawsuits against employers, including those in the healthcare sector, are based on issues similar to concerns raised when the pandemic started in 2020. The Coronavirus lawsuits assert that employers violated federal and state mandates, guidelines, and regulations regarding employee safety. Specifically, employers violated federal laws like the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
Some employees have also filed lawsuits against their employers for violating WARN Act which requires that employers with less than 100 or more employees provide at least 60 days’ notice before conducting a mass layoff. Employers abused workers’ rights when the pandemic was raging. So, they are fighting employers who failed to provide proper protection against COVID-19, didn’t provide a safe work environment, and ensured their lives were not at risk by being asked to come into work. Reasons like wrongful termination, denial of leave, workplace safety, and retaliation are all basis for initiating a lawsuit.
Failure to Refund Lawsuit
In response to the onset of the virus, many states issued a stay-at-home directive, several events, festivals, and canceled flights. Yet, various vendors refused to issue refunds, leaving consumers in challenging positions during the pandemic. As a result, several class action lawsuits ensued to help consumers receive their refunds, like the New York Sports Club Member Fees Refund Lawsuit and Planet Fitness Monthly Fees Refund Lawsuit. Persons with similar complaints can also seek redress.
Coronavirus Tuition, Board, Room and Fee Class Action Lawsuits
Similarly, students who lost the benefits of in-person training, housing, meals, and student activities previously paid filed a lawsuit against their colleges and universities. Such lawsuits seeking restitution for fees, tuition, housing, meals, and other applicable costs are a valid basis for seeking justice.
COVID-19 Price Extortion Lawsuit
Many consumers went into panic buying in response to the news during the pandemic. Numerous retailers took advantage of the increased demand for certain products, raising their prices exorbitantly, resulting in consumers accusing the retailers of unfair price extortion and exploitation. Several reports of surges in coronavirus-related price-gouging claims on products across the United States, which encouraged several States to enact new laws, enforce existing ones, and take executive action such as declaring a state of emergency to combat price extortion. Consumers who fell victim to coronavirus price extortion can receive compensation for violating their rights. They can join a coronavirus class-action lawsuit. For example, in New York, the Attorney General challenged the increased egg prices during the Coronavirus outbreak and other existing lawsuits.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Insurance Lawsuit
Business owners anticipate loss. In response, they take out business interruption insurance policies. The insurance covers mortgage payment, lost income, loans, rent, taxes, payroll, and other costs. However, many owners who paid premiums for years to some insurance companies were denied because the insurance companies insisted that it did not cover Coronavirus and refused to pay up. It forces buyers to take legal action against the insurance companies who denied their claim and still justifies a lawsuit.
COVID-19 False Claims Lawsuits
Promoting false products and messages against Coronavirus can result in lawsuits because state and federal laws prohibit companies from making misleading and false product claims. In New York, the Attorney General ordered Alex Jones, the CEO of Infowars, to stop advertising and selling products as a cure for Coronavirus and threatened him with legal action. Private consumers and government authorities can start legal actions against companies that make bogus health-related claims on products that could cure or prevent Coronavirus.
Germ-X and makers of Purell hand sanitizer were allegedly making false claims on how their sanitizers protect consumers against Coronavirus.
Securities Lawsuits due to COVID-19
A stakeholder can file a false financial claim lawsuit against an organization if they discover inflated filings or financial situations in shareholder or company reports attributed to Coronavirus and its economic repercussions.
Foreclosure Lawsuits based on Impact of Coronavirus
Homeowners with adequate proof can initiate lawsuits to prevent foreclosures based on the impact of the virus on their business or job. These lawsuits can cause a halt in foreclosure, especially homeowners who are still out of work due to the pandemic and facing foreclosure can seek legal options.
Negligence-based Coronavirus Lawsuits
In this type of lawsuit, which is often tricky to prove, defendants are liable if they negligently exposed people to Coronavirus, resulting in personal injury or death. Businesses, health care facilities, and various organizations are liable if there is evidence that they didn’t take adequate measures to prevent the spread and failed to take precautions against COVID-19 caused infection or complications. Various airlines, cruise lines, nursing homes, commercial properties have been sued for negligence. Similarly, infected tenants, guests, or family members could also claim that the building or property was unclean, overcrowded, or had sick people in it. Thus, leading to preventable coronavirus transmission or the death of a loved one from coronavirus infection.
Steps to Filing a Lawsuit
If you intend to pursue a lawsuit, specific information and stages that accompany the process include filing a complaint, which then goes through judicial review and then service of the process. It is worth mentioning that in anticipation of possible lawsuits that can ensue, over 25 states in 2021 introduced protective legislation that will protect businesses from COVID-19 lawsuits. And as earlier mentioned, it is always better to try to settle out of court when all parties can try and reach an amicable agreement. However, if all measures fail, the plaintiff can seek justice by consulting a lawyer to start the process. Visit www.askthelawyer.us or call 855-768-8845.