As the world continues to deal with the health and economic catastrophe created by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, Americans are becoming increasingly concerned about protecting their legal rights. A potential flood of related litigation has begun a slow but steady build. Because this pandemic is unprecedented, predicting the legal fallout left in its wake is difficult. However, what we can predict is an eventual steady stream of litigation directly related to the havoc wreaked by COVID-19.
The business community has already seen the initial wave of litigation coming out of the COVID-19 crisis, including cases involving: (1) a maker of hand sanitizer making false statements about the sanitizer’s effectiveness against COVID-19; (2) Uber and Lyft drivers seeking a declaration that they are employees and not independent contractors, making them eligible for sick pay; (3) retailers price gouging high-demand items such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer (See Armas v. Amazon.com); (4) a New York fitness chain charging monthly fees after the gym closed because of the pandemi; and (5) ticket reseller StubHub refusing to refund money for cancelled events (See McMillian v. StubHub).
The impact of COVID-19 on business operations, consumer activity, and economic forecasts has made clear that the filings to date are only an early indication of what is to come. Two specific areas which the attorneys at Azrael Franz anticipate to be greatly litigated are:
- False Claims Act – One of the unfortunate but predictable responses to a national crisis is that criminals will try to take advantage. Under the False Claims Act (FCA), it is illegal to knowingly submit claims for payment from federal government programs that are false or fraudulent. The Department of Justice announced it will “prioritize the investigation and prosecution of coronavirus-related fraud schemes” and established a national hotline for whistleblowers to report suspected fraud. Furthermore, the FCA includes a “qui tam” provision, which creates an incentive for whistleblowers to report, or relate, false claims. Recently, whistleblowers have reaped huge fee awards for their part in bringing evidence of false claims to the United States government. In this time of crisis, it is important that we all pull together. That includes making sure criminals do not use the crisis as an opportunity to profit from the fear and uncertainty.
- Loss of Use/Business Insurance Claims – With COVID-19 disrupting global supply chains and sales, businesses are losing income and incurring additional expenses as a result of the disruption. There likely will be an increase in insurance claims against policies offering business interruption or contingent business interruption coverage. Whether the claims are covered will depend on the terms and conditions of the insurance policy and the circumstances of the loss. You might not be able to prevent pandemics like the spread of COVID-19, but you can potentially find relief from a loss of business income. The insurance litigation attorneys at Azrael Franz are here to help.
Personal Injury Litigation
With such widespread and devastating effects, individuals want to hold someone responsible. Could COVID-19 lead to personal injury lawsuits? That depends on each situation.
- Nursing Home Liability – One-half of COVID-19 deaths in Maryland have happened in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Those who lost a family member that was a nursing home or assisted living facility resident may have grounds for legal action if that facility that did not follow proactive steps necessary to safeguard the health of their residents during the pandemic.
- Cruise Ship Liability – COVID-19 wreaked havoc on several cruise ships and lawsuits have already began against cruise companies for the irresponsible way they handled the spread of the disease on board. If you feel as though the crew of a cruise ship failed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus while you were on board, you may have grounds for legal actions.
The circumstances surrounding each COVID-19 case is unique. Our personal injury lawyers will look at your circumstances and determine (1) how you became exposed to the illness; (2) the extent of your illness; and (3) whether “all reasonable measures” were taken to prevent your exposure to the virus.
If you or a loved-one have been personally impacted by COVID-19, contact Azrael Franz for a free consultation.