Unintended Consequences

As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on the health, economies, and even political stability of nations, cities and towns across the globe.  In America, it is also causing a growing wave of litigation that will likely go on longer than the pandemic itself.   Lawsuits will emerge from virtually every corner of our society and will involve a wide range of businesses, many state and local governments, and a broad cross section of our population.  Governments will endeavor to protect businesses (see https://www.fisherphillips.com/resources-alerts-nevada-covid-19-liability-protection) and health care providers (see https://www.videntpartners.com/blog/2020/%E2%80%8Bone-important-immunity-achieved-healthcare-providers-%C2%A0lawsuits), but how successful those efforts will be remains to be seen.

As of August 27, employees have filed 588 lawsuits (including 69 class actions) against employers alleging labor and employment violations (retaliation, wrongful termination, discrimination etc.) related to the coronavirus  To give you an idea of the rapid growth of this field of litigation, 51 complaints were filed in April, 160 in July, and 142 in August as of the 27th – and there’s no reason to believe that the wave has peaked. These and other statistics (and a striking growth curve graphic) are at https://www.littler.com/publication-press/publication/covid-19-labor-employment-litigation-tracker; another COVID-19 employment litigation tracker is at https://www.fisherphillips.com/covid-19-litigation

Workplace-related lawsuits are undoubtedly the most common type of litigation driven by the pandemic and probably will continue to be.  We have not found a tracker for other types of coronavirus-related litigation, but they may already be occurring in smaller numbers, and if not, they are certainly foreseeable.  Nursing homes are prime targets for wrongful death actions, as are governmental regulators (and governmental owners, in some cases) of nursing homes.  There will be lawsuits against bars, restaurants, hotels, gyms etc. by customers who become ill with COVID-19 after frequenting the establishment in question.  Private individuals who host unsafe parties may find themselves being sued by guests who subsequently test positive.  State and local governments may be sued for actions they took or failed to take that arguably increased the spread of the disease.  And when coronavirus vaccines become available and serious side effects begin showing up, claims against the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, https://www.hrsa.gov/vaccine-compensation/index.html, will quickly follow.

All of these lawsuits will require experts in many fields of specialization.  Plaintiff and defense attorneys alike will be looking for qualified, experienced experts, and it won’t be long before the available experts start to be “used up.”  We have seen this phenomenon in the opiate litigation, which involves thousands of lawsuits in both state and federal courts:  Attorneys who waited too long to engage experts had great difficulty doing so, because most experts had previously been engaged by other parties and consequently were either unavailable or conflicted.

Vident Partners works with attorneys to identify qualified, experienced, appropriate experts for all types of litigation, and on this brand-new legal battlefield our services are going to be essential.  We look forward to working with you.


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