First came the coronavirus outbreak, and now the expected outbreak in coronavirus litigation has arrived. As of last weekend, nearly 800 claims related to the Covid-19 pandemic had been filed in state and federal courts across the country. The cases run a wide gamut, including claims against hospitals, nursing homes, cruise lines, airlines, hotels, fitness centers and entertainment companies. There are also contract disputes, employees suing their own companies, and disputes over what is and isn't covered by insurance policies. "For every conceivable way that people lost money from this (pandemic), there are going to be lawyers trying to get some compensation for the victims," says Houston attorney Michael Fleming.
Fleming tells KTRH a large portion of these cases center around the issue of business interruption insurance--which typically covers business losses in the event they are shut down by a fire, flood, storm, etc. "You've got massive numbers of restaurants and retail outlets that were not allowed to open," says Fleming. "The Paycheck Protection loans they've taken out will be good to let them keep their employees employed for a couple months, but they're never going to recover the massive losses they suffered from being closed down for the last couple months."
These cases are expected to take months or years to play out, with legal observers unsure of how courts will ultimately rule. Nonetheless, Fleming believes this pandemic will result in permanent changes to contract law and legal precedent. "No one was prepared for it...contracts didn't anticipate this, local governments didn't, the national government didn't," he says. "So, commercial policies and contracts are all going to have to anticipate this kind of thing in the future."