Covid-19 and the Upcoming Onslaught of Lawsuits

"class action lawsuit", injury, "assumption of risk"With all 50 states now re-opening in one form or another, businesses, nursing homes, medical facilities and others are bracing for what will surely be an onslaught of lawsuits over the illnesses and deaths due to the coronavirus.  And we have all heard horror stories of healthcare workers who were, virtually, forced to work in high risk areas without the protection of masks, gloves, etc.  We have even heard about at least one funeral home that had bodies of the deceased stacked up outside in the hot sun, decaying.

So, as the Plaintiffs are “Lawyering UP” to file their individual or collective lawsuits, the Plaintiffs will have to prove: (1) that there was a duty of the Defendant to protect the Plaintiff from the harm suffered, (2) that the Defendant breached that duty, (3) that the injuries suffered by the Plaintiff were proximately caused by the negligence of the Defendant, and (4) the damages suffered by the Plaintiff as a result of the Defendant’s negligence.  And as Plaintiffs prepare to file their lawsuits, potential Defendants are seeking protection from government officials, seeking immunity from lawsuits.

In injury law, one of the things we look at is whether the injury (or death) was “foreseeable”.  About a month ago, a friend who is a healthcare worker informed indicated that she would be traveling to New Orleans to provide healthcare for coronavirus patients.  But then she was informed that the facility would NOT be providing masks for the healthcare workers.  As a result, she refused to go.  And over the last few months, there have been many similar reports.  Now, for certain many facilities will argue that masks, gloves, etc., were in limited supply at the time.  However, the steps the facility took to protect its healthcare workers and patients will need to be litigated.

And then there are the patients who contracted the coronavirus.   We have heard all of the stories coming out of New York about the need for more ventilators.  But, we also heard about the high number of deaths that occurred to patients in New York who were placed on ventilators.  Some have even argued that the use of ventilators may have contributed to the deaths of some of the patients.

The news reported about churches who opted to hold services or choir rehearsals, etc., which ignored social distancing.  As a result, church members contracted the coronavirus which then led to the death of some.  So, you can be assured that some of the Plaintiffs who will be filing lawsuits will include relatives of church members (or church members themselves) who were affected when the church failed to take protective measures to prevent personnel contamination.  The same goes for businesses which failed to protect their employees or customers.

Ironically, when “gyms” were among the first businesses permitted to re-open in certain states, it was baffling.  When you think about gyms, you can’t help but conjure up images of people sweating all over the equipment, then the next user lays down on that same equipment.  It would seem that gyms would be among the last of the businesses that would re-open.

Restaurants implemented social distancing measures, although, there have been some that failed to enforce the requirement that their employees wear masks and gloves while handling food.

Now, on the horizon, bars and nightclubs are about to open in many states.  Clearly, it will be a nightmare trying to enforce social distancing in those environments.    And you can rest assured that there will be covid-19 lawsuits filed against some of those entities.

Hence, the initial question is, “Was the harm foreseeable?”  Clearly, the answer would be “yes”.  We saw what was occurring first in other countries, so it was no surprise about what would occur here, in the United States.  Was there a duty to protect the employees, patients, and customers from the harm suffered?  Again, the clear answer would be “yes”.  Did the facility, staff, business, or employees breach that duty?  This issue would need to be litigated to flush out what actions or inactions occurred.  Was the injury suffered proximately caused by the action or inaction of the Defendants?  This too would need to be litigated to connect the injury to the facility, place of employment, etc.  Finally, damages.  If the victim died as a result of being infected by the coronavirus, there is a potential wrongful death action.  If the Plaintiff was infected by the coronavirus, the damages could include financial loss, deprivation of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, loss of employment, as well as, other possible damages.

Hence, as we sort through the issue of accountability, we are here to discuss these issues and answer any questions you may have about covid-19 litigation matters.  Anthony Overton Van Johnson & Associates, P.C., https://www.vanjohnsonfirm.us; (678) 882-7355; anthony@vanjohnsonfirm.us