COVID-19 Reading List

September 11, 2020

Daryl Joseffer, U.S. Chamber Litigation Center

This week’s reporting and commentary on COVID-19 litigation includes an especially interesting look at the precedents being set in cruise-ship cases, the role of state sovereign immunity in college coronavirus cases, too much time at home driving litigation over 401(k) fees, the leading employment-benefits cases, and, of course, Congress’s efforts to enact liability protection.

Tort Suits

Reporting on the dismissal of claims brought by cruise-ship passengers who contracted COVID-19, Law.com explained that the decisions may have far-reaching consequences for landlubbers as well.  The basic point?  That these suits illuminate the hurdles plaintiffs face in seeking to prove causation and damages.

Sports Illustrated took a look at the liability risks facing colleges and universities that play football games this fall – and concluded that public schools have a competitive advantage.  Public schools face less exposure in light of state sovereign immunity and caps on damages against the government in many (though not all) states.  Sports Illustrated even suggests that sovereign immunity may help explain why some conferences are playing football this fall and others are not.

According to Global News, the Good Samaritan Society has been sued for negligence.

Financial Suits

Boredom at home = more lawsuits?  There’s been a five-fold increase in suits over 401(k) fees this year, according to Bloomberg Law.  And this article reports that the pandemic “may be partly responsible for the spike in fee litigation,” as bored and lonely people spend more time talking with plaintiffs’ lawyers.

Bloomberg Law covered the budding litigation over LVMH’s effort to extract itself from its pre-pandemic offer to buy Tiffany & Co. for $16 billion.

Employment

 “Benefits attorneys will be keeping an eye on suits over coronavirus leave, paid sick time, benefit plan participation requirements and notices to laid-off workers in 2020's final months — and they warn that if these lawsuits gain traction, a flood of similar cases could follow.”  So says Law360, which reports that those are the four hot topics for benefits litigation in the pandemic.

We’re all familiar with the spike in employment-practices lawsuits.  This article explains the impact on policies for Employment Practices Liability Insurance.

Liability Protection

Last but certainly not least, media outlets including the Washington Post reported that “Democrats blocked a pared-down GOP coronavirus relief bill” – which included liability protection – “in a bitterly disputed Senate vote Thursday, leaving the two parties without a clear path forward to approve new economic stimulus before the November elections.”

Meanwhile, the National Law Review took an in-depth look at liability waivers as businesses increasingly rely on them in the absence of federal lia