It has been reported that nearly 300 federal lawsuits filed in the months of March and April stem from the COVID-19 pandemic. Contracts, insurance and employment were the practice areas with the largest number of cases stemming from the pandemic. Another report found that as of May 28, more than 2,300 cases had been filed over the pandemic.
The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has received notice of 101 federal lawsuits seeking insurance coverage for “business interruption” losses caused by the virus, including restaurants, with one petition filed by plaintiffs in Philadelphia and Chicago seeking one judge to preside in all federal business interruption suits.
And legal pundits are warning that that there will be a wave of COVID-19 related class action lawsuits and other employment claims, including suits for injuries and wrongful death, discrimination, employment liability insurance, privacy violations, retaliation, and whistleblower complaints all tied into some sort of safety issue and reconstructed as a whistleblower claim.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in New York and New England, for example, is seeing charges alleging a failure to accommodate disabilities.
Workers with conditions that predispose them to COVID-19 complications have the right to request an accommodation if it isn’t an undue hardship for the business. On the other hand, workers who aren’t recalled to the job because of concern for their health may also have a disability bias claim.
Communicate with your insurance agent to ensure you have appropriate coverage for all risks relating to the pandemic your business may face upon re-opening. Confirm and memorialize all communications in writing.
Check your policies for contractual limitation periods for filing claims. While coverage claims face an uphill battle, it is unknown what the outcome will be under novel claims and arguments.
If you have business interruption coverage, you may want to consider filing a claim as late as contractually permitted to preserve the right to recover on the claim depending on the outcome of other lawsuits.