Like almost everyone else on Planet Earth, this Syracuse NY injury lawyer has been holed up at home, hunkering down against the pandemic. My home is in Geneva, NY, which is a pretty nice place to be locked down. People here are looking out for each other. I’ve joined a group of corona virus fighters at a local church preparing cheap and even free meals for folks on the weekend. Can you guess which one in the above photos is me?
My “real” job, though, is not on standstill. In fact, my laptop keyboard is getting quite a workout: I have been conducting online research, shooting out emails to adjusters and defense lawyers, preparing legal briefs, etc. My cell phone has also been working overtime: Insurance adjusters are still working (from home) so I have been trying to settle cases with them. I have also been catching up with clients on the status of their medical treatment.
The court system, however, is frozen solid, at least in the civil arena. All motions, court filings, trials, etc. are suspended. My calendar is just about empty. And that does give me some extra time for reading and writing.
One thing I have been reading about is a wave of coronavirus related lawsuits. I must say I feel a little embarrassed that my brethren in law have already found ways to sue for coronavirus sickness. Yes, we are a smart and aggressive group. Some would say too aggressive. But on the other hand, some institutions and companies have added fuel to the fire of the outbreak and their victims may deserve compensation.
For example, sick workers and their families are suing contractors or employers for corona virus death and illness. They are claiming more should have been done to prevent the spread of the disease.
Businesses such as restaurants are suing their insurance carriers for business interruption losses. The insurers are relying on “force majeure” clauses to deny coverage for those losses.
Cruise lines are in the frontline of coronavirus lawsuits. It has been known for years that cruise ships are virtual petri dishes of human contagion. One of the questions these lawsuits will pose is, why didn’t they cancel their January and February cruises when the virus was already on a rampage in Asia? (The victims’ lawyers will argue they put their greed for profits over the safety of their customers).
The second in the line of fire will be nursing homes (though I haven’t seen any suits filed yet), which are also petri dishes of coronavirus spread, and where all the inhabitants are especially susceptible victims in their 80’s and 90’s. Some of the questions those lawsuits will pose are: Why did they wait so long to deny access to visitors, require staff to use face masks, and install extra cleaning protocol?
Next in the line of fire? Perhaps universities and colleges that delayed too long in closing or allowed students to stay on campuses where the virus ran rampant. Some colleges have already been sued for refusing to return dorm payments.
And all that is just the tip of the iceberg. Even prisoners and detained migrants are suing their jailers and the government entities who continue to hold them, thus exposing them to the risk of a virus outbreak.
And think about frontline coronavirus fighters such as health care workers and “essential” workers like mechanics and pharmacy, delivery and grocery store workers who may argue that the facilities where they were working did not take adequate precautions to prevent the spread. (Although proving that they would likely not have gotten the virus had safer practices been in place will be challenging),
We are already seeing lawsuits for false advertising against companies that manufacture, market and sell hand sanitizers. Suits alleging price gouging have been filed.
Fox News has been sued for playing down the pandemic, causing its generally elderly audience to let their guard down and get sick. The lawsuit seeks to enjoin Fox from covering the pandemic. (Good luck with that lawsuit. Every heard of the First Amendment folks?).
The American Federation of Government Employees has filed a a class action lawsuit claiming that its union members should have been awarded hazardous duty pay for being exposed to the pandemic risk at prisons.
Top law firms are already gathering top lawyers from across the nation to form specialized “coronavirus” practice groups.
Obviously, many of these lawsuits will be tossed out for lack of merit. But desperate times call for desperate lawsuits. The greater the suffering, the more losses rack up, the more risk lawyers are willing to take.
The most desperate lawsuit I have seen so far is a class action filed against the Chinese government for having hid virus information, even though that case has absolutely zero chance of success (in my humble opinion) because of a legal doctrine called “sovereign immunity“.
Brace yourselves for more coronavirus-related suits. Where there’s smoke there’s fire. And where there is loss, pain and suffering, there are lawsuits. Meanwhile, hunker down and stay safe.
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Syracuse NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.