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FMG Law Blog Line

COVID-19 Related Tort Lawsuits On The Rise? Not So Fast, My Friend

Posted on: September 29th, 2020

By: Gregory Blueford

As summer turns to fall and football returns to fill our weekends, the unwelcome reality of COVID-19 still has a firm grasp on day-to-day life across the globe. Earlier this month, we outlined the HEALS Act’s Tort Immunity Provision under the proposed Safe to Work Act which seeks to curb liability for coronavirus exposure for businesses and individuals. In short, the proposed statute provides that individuals or businesses cannot be liable for alleged exposure to COVID-19 unless the plaintiff can prove by clear and convincing evidence that:

  • The defendant did not make reasonable efforts to comply with “applicable government standards and guidance” concerning exposure;
  • The defendant engaged in gross negligence or willful misconduct causing actual exposure to coronavirus; and
  • The actual exposure caused the personal injury to the plaintiff.

You can read the article here in full here.

Given our society’s penchant to engage in litigation, your first inclination may be: “Well, that makes sense. There must be people suing left and right!” However, an interesting ongoing study shows that may not be the case, at least as far as torts are concerned. Per a rolling tracker created by a corporate law firm, approximately 5,000 COVID-19 lawsuits have been filed this year, with a majority of lawsuits being filed under the broad “Insurance” and “Civil Rights” categories. Personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits from exposure to COVID-19 in a consumer setting are quite limited to date, totaling 20 and 5 respectively, which are less combined than the number of lawsuits filed due to recurring membership fees being charged without services rendered (28). Likewise, only 92 lawsuits have been filed that are categorized as “conditions of employment,” which includes lack of PPE, exposure to COVID-19 at work, wrongful death, and personal injury.

A disagreement, mostly along party lines, exists as to whether the HEALS Act is necessary. One side cites the above numbers as proof that the statute is another method to shortchange workers while the other side surmises that COVID-19 related lawsuits may track asbestos litigation, which has stayed fairly consistent for decades on end. As with most things in the year 2020, only time will tell.

If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Gregory Blueford at [email protected].

Additional Information:

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients.  Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments.  For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER:  The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19.  The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement.  We can only give legal advice to clients.  Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG.  An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest.  As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such.  We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.**

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