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Lawsuits & Litigation

COVID-19 Lawsuits: An Unprecedented Rise in Legal Warfare

— August 11, 2020

As the situation grows worse, the number of COVID-19 lawsuits will increase, and in such a scenario, only professional advice will be able to protect you.

There have been a lot of changes in the world due to the pandemic, but the rise in lawsuits and claims was not something any of us expected. Truly, the global pandemic has given an unprecedented rise in COVID-19 lawsuits across the world for various different reasons. The numbers right now are incredibly high, but according to the U.S Chamber of Commerce Litigation, this is merely the tip of the iceberg. As the pandemic grows worse, there will be more expedient class-action lawsuits that will be filed against businesses, employers, and government/federal state.

Until mid-June, over 2000 COVID-19 lawsuits had been lodged in federal and state courts in the US. The reasons for all these lawsuits range from non-compliance with customer/client safety measures on part of businesses, employment lawsuits, and many others. This rise in the number of lawsuits, especially during the time of pandemic is something no one has ever seen before.

It is well expected that as long as the pandemic stays, the numbers of current lawsuits against businesses are going to be on the rise. So in such a scenario, it will be wiser for the businesses and employers to figure out the reasons why lawsuits are being filed, just so they can take necessary precautions. Here is a list of reasons and types of businesses against whom the litigations have been filed till now.

Lawsuits Filed by Clients and Customers

Clients expect the businesses and service providers to conduct business in compliance with safety measures that promise client safety during this pandemic. However, if and when businesses fail to comply with the guidelines, it becomes quite inevitable for the clients to file lawsuits for endangering lives. Here is a list of the types of businesses facing COVID-19 lawsuits for the same reason.

Cruise & Airlines: Facing the Legal Burn 

One of the most popular examples of this until now is the Princess Cruise Line lawsuits. The company has multiple COVID-19 lawsuits filed against them for ignoring the seriousness of the issue, failing to provide proper precautionary measures and later quarantine measures for the affected passengers. A Washington Post article called out the cruising lines and why they were still operative during the early spread of the pandemic.

The Celebrity Edge, owned by Royal Caribbean subsidiary Celebrity Cruises. Image via Wikimedia Commons, user:Jjerome78. (CCA-BY-4.0).

Airlines are not exempt from this either. Customers are suing the airlines for not giving back refunds after their flights were canceled as well as not providing enough security measures for customer safety. It is time for transportation agencies to step up and start following the safety compliance guidelines to avoid client services lawsuits.

Hospitality Industry Facing Lawsuits While Adapting to New Normal

There’s no doubt that the hospitality sector has been majorly affected by the pandemic. Not only are they seeing a reduced number of clients coming through the door, but the chances of getting COVID-19 lawsuits filed against them is at an all-time high. There are various legal and liability issues the hotel business is going to face in the coming pandemic times, one of which is about the health, safety, and security of the customers.

As the schools and daycares gear to open their doors in this new normal, they face an increased chance of customer lawsuits by parents who feel that their children’s safety is not being taken seriously. And that’s why daycares and schools need to be prepared to comply with the sanitization guidelines without any mistakes.

Healthcare and Legal Repercussions of Coronavirus

Despite the obvious fact that the doctors, nurses, and any healthcare professional are the first responders, the healthcare organizations are not exempt from having lawsuits filed against them. Various healthcare facilities are seeing a growing chance of facing COVID-19 lawsuits by patients and their families for not being able to protect the staff and patients from the outbreak.

And that’s why healthcare providers are seeking professional liability insurance protection against such lawsuits. The authorities have spoken out about the situation and how there needs to be an executive order is necessary to let the medical professionals know that the state of Florida has their back.

Lawsuits Filed by Employees

According to stats, till mid-June, there have been around 230 lawsuits filed that are directly related to employment law infractions such as EPLI insurance. Besides having to deal with drastic changes in the eCommerce and supply chain industry thanks to COVID-19, most of the employers are facing lawsuits under various federal, state and local laws. And in such a scenario it is important for them to be aware of the kind of lawsuits they might face in order to take precautionary steps. 

Refusal to Provide Paid Leaves

Employers are being sued for not providing the mandated paid leaves under Coronavirus law signed in March. According to this, employers have to provide up to fourteen days of paid leave and up to 10 weeks of leave to the eligible employees for school and childcare closure due to the pandemic.

However, there are many employees suing their workplace for either refusing to give them mandated leave or retaliating against them for taking the said leaves. This discrepancy might cost the employers dearly, so it is better if they pay close attention to the state whistleblower statute and anti-retaliation provisions across the country.

Discrimination Lawsuits 

Even though the virus is more dangerous for older and immune compromised employees, preventing them from coming to work might cause employers to face a lawsuit under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Even if they are being mindful of the employees and their best interests, it might be in violation of the law.

Business owners might also face lawsuits if they fail to provide a safe work environment for their employees. In such a case, having employers’ liability insurance will help protect the businesses from legal side-effects.

Lawsuits for Discrepancy Between Wage and Work Hours

The work from home arrangements might give a rise to lawsuits regarding unpaid wages and overtime fees. And that’s why it is important that employers create proper documentation to set expectations regarding time tracking and making sure that employees are keeping a record of the amount of time they are working.

The reimbursement for necessary expenses related to work, such as Wi-Fi charges and office supplies, also need to be included within this document. States like California and many others already have policies regarding employee reimbursement for work-related expenses. 

Layoff Notice

Employers are already giving into downsizing their employees by lying off a good number of people. However, this business decision is one of the main reasons why businesses across the country are facing employment lawsuits.

Employees who feel that they were separated and laid off based on some kind of discriminatory reasons may choose to go through an employment lawsuit process. Even if the employer didn’t mean to, any downsizing resolution related to the pandemic that seems to discriminate against a protected class of people might earn them such lawsuits. So it is better to pay attention to the WARN Act and its guidelines before lying off any employees.

Lawsuits Filed by Businesses 

Businesses are also filing various COVID-19 business interruption claims after facing major financial setbacks during the pandemic. Most common among these lawsuits are insurance company lawsuits for the failure of coverage during the outbreak.

Most businesses tend to get general liability business insurance for any incident that might halt operations due to any kind of physical damage. But most insurance policies come with vague details on what the coverage will be in case of a disease outbreak. As a result, disappointed companies might end up filing a lawsuit against insurance companies for failing to provide proper coverage and giving vague documentation.

Another reason why businesses might file a lawsuit against business partners and clients is the ‘Force Majeure’ clause. According to this clause, parties are free of any contractual obligations in case of an ‘act of god’. This clause can be misinterpreted in the time of such heightened tension and businesses may face severe losses. It is expected that any misinterpretation of these clauses will lead to serious class-action litigation against business partners.

Wrapping Up: Professional Advice Will Help in Survival

As the situation grows worse, the number of COVID-19 lawsuits will increase, and in such a scenario, only professional advice will be able to protect you. So business owners or employers need to stay updated with all federal state and local laws relating to employee welfare and business operations to avoid facing any lawsuits.

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