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COVID-19 ISO Insights

Some Trends in Pandemic-related Litigation Activity

February 8, 2021

By: Christopher Sirota, CPCU

Lexology has reported on some trends of litigation related to the pandemic.

Commercial Lease Contracts

With reports of so many lockdowns occurring nationwide during the pandemic, it is not surprising that the article notes in May and June 2020 about 40% of national retailers failed to pay rent. Per the article, retailers and landlords likely then tried to negotiate. Unsuccessful negotiations can often lead to litigation, and some industry experts have actually reportedly noticed an increase in breach of contract cases initiated by both retailers and landlords.

Commercial Contracts

According to the article, industry experts have noticed a variety of disputes related to the pandemic, including those over intellectual property, service agreements, rentals of event venues, mergers and acquisitions, and advertising. Per the article, "[b]etween March and November 2020, the pleadings in more than 2,400 contract cases filed in federal courts involved COVID […]."

More Industries May Face Allegations of Negligence

The article highlights that early in 2020 during the pandemic, nursing homes and cruise lines were targets of allegations of not providing enough protection from the COVID-19 virus to workers and visitors.

Later, some companies in the meat packing industry were reportedly facing accusations of gross negligence for allegedly not providing appropriate protection against the virus, and gross negligence could, per the article, "[…] make it a torts issue rather than a workers’ compensation issue. That opens the door to punitive damages and the possible negation of liability waivers and any COVID-related legal immunity laws that might be in place […]."

The article notes some other tort litigation emerging, such as "some product liability cases in which plaintiffs have challenged claims for the virus-killing qualities of hand sanitizers" and even arguments that e-cigarette manufacturers should have been aware of the increased potential for their devices to cause more severe COVID-19 symptoms due to vaping.

Lastly, the article opines that future COVID-19 related lawsuits may include company liability for an employee's negative physiological reaction to a company mandated vaccine and even new liabilities arising out of the increasing use of telemedicine during the pandemic. (See our post on telemedicine during the pandemic here.)

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