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6 Types of COVID-19 Lawsuits That Will Be Coming Down the Pike

Man holding wooden gavel in the hand
By Richard Dahl on April 27, 2020 12:00 PM

The coronavirus pandemic will dramatically change many things about American life by the time it runs its course.

But one thing is for sure: It won't change our reliance on the courts to resolve disputes. In fact, we may be looking to the courts like never before to answer questions about who has done wrong, and about who owes what to whom.

The lawsuits have already begun, and by many accounts they are just the initial waves of what may be a tsunami.

So, as we look to horizon it may be helpful to break down some of the different forms these lawsuits will take.

1. Workplace/Employment Lawsuits

Businesses deemed nonessential could face personal injury suits if they had employees come in for work who then got sick.

Businesses deemed essential could face legal liability if they failed to provide proper safeguards for workers.

Companies could be sued if they fire employees for complaining about inadequate safeguards.

2. Class-Action Lawsuits

These are cases where large numbers of plaintiffs band together to file lawsuits against companies and other entities, alleging that they have committed fraud or caused damages.

Several have already been filed, including a suit against the state of Alaska by 8,000 state employees who claim that they were subjected to health and safety risks. A shareholder suit against Inovio Pharmaceuticals claims that the company made false or misleading statements about a potential COVID-19 vaccine it was developing.

Attorney Kent Schmidt is keeping a running tally on coronavirus class actions.

3. Lawsuits Against Educational Institutions

These are also class actions by plaintiffs who argue that schools promised to provide a service and are failing to provide proper refunds.

Several have already been filed, including actions against the University of Arizona, Drexel University, and the University of Miami.

4. Insurance Lawsuits

These are lawsuits by companies contending that their insurers wrongfully denied them coverage for losses caused by the pandemic.

Among the early entries in this area are three Milwaukee companies who sued their insurers for denying claims under their "business interruption" policies.

5. Voting Rights Lawsuits

Mark Elias, lead attorney for the Democratic Party has already filed 20 lawsuits in 14 states challenging voting procedures he deems too restrictive.

Republicans say they are ramping up their legal efforts as well, mostly as a response to Democratic actions. "Republicans charge that Democrats are exploiting the current health crisis to secure a wish list of voting changes, including same-day voter registration and elimination of signature requirements intended to safeguard the vote-by-mail system," National Public Radio reported April 17.

6. Lawsuits Against Health Care Companies

These are lawsuits claiming that health care organizations, assisted-living facilities, and nursing homes failed to take adequate steps to protect patients and staff.

One of the first of these lawsuits, filed April 20, was filed by the New York State Nurses Association, claiming the state's hospitals have turned into "petri dishes" for the virus. The suit, naming the state Health Department and two hospitals as defendants, says that nurses have lacked proper safety equipment and told to return to work while they were still sick.

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