COVID-19 Reading List

September 3, 2020

Jonathan D. Urick, U.S. Chamber Litigation Center

This week’s reporting and commentary on COVID-19 litigation focused on a possible coming wave of age- and disability-discrimination lawsuits, tuition-refund litigation, cruise-line class actions, and China’s potential response to the lawsuits against it in U.S. courts.

A Possible Wave of Age-Discrimination Lawsuits

According to the ABA Journal, “Labor and employment attorneys around the country say they are receiving a flood of complaints and questions about [coronavirus-related] layoffs, firings and recalls to the workplace that involve potential discrimination against older and disabled workers. Many cases involve an overlap of age and disability bias claims.”  Attorneys on both the plaintiff and defense side “predict a large volume of federal and state lawsuits” alleging age and disability discrimination “will emerge from the pandemic.”

College-Tuition Refund Litigation

The Washington, DC area ABC News affiliate examines the lawsuits that “dozens” of colleges and universities are facing from “students and their parents demanding a refund of a portion of their tuition from the spring semester that was interrupted by COVID-19. The core complaint: the education they paid for was not the education they got.”

“Schools are fighting back against the lawsuits,” the article reports, “defending decisions to close campuses for the safety of students and staff while doing their best to maintain the quality of classes while shifting to online learning. At the same time, several leading higher education trade groups have sought liability protections against legal charges arising from the coronavirus.”

Cruise Line Passengers Seek Class Certification

Law 360 reports that plaintiff Princess Cruise Line passengers have asked a California federal judge to certify a class action “alleging the company allowed them to board the Grand Princess ship despite knowing passengers from a previous voyage were suffering from COVID-19 symptoms.”  Princess is facing a number of such suits, and recently moved to dismiss one of them, arguing “that the passenger suing can't show her symptoms were related to the coronavirus.”

China’s Potential Response to Coronavirus Litigation

Finally, over at Lawfare, attorneys Shira Anderson and Sean Mirski examine China’s potential responses to the coronavirus-related lawsuits it faces in U.S. courts.  “Usually, defendants in American courts have no choice but to appear before a judge,” Anderson and Mirski explain.  “But China—along with its subdivisions, agencies and instrumentalities—is situated differently than most defendants. As a foreign sovereign state, it can take a more creative approach to litigation. In other words, China has choices.”  These options include full participation mounting a defense, ignoring the lawsuits completely, and indirect participation attempting to influence the litigation through public advocacy.