COVID-19 Reading List
Jonathan D. Urick, U.S. Chamber Litigation Center
Some highlights of this week’s reporting and commentary on COVID-19 litigation include articles on its continuing and likely accelerating growth, a possible compromise coronavirus-relief bill, international business-interruption insurance litigation, the recent judicial decision striking down Pennsylvania’s coronavirus orders as unconstitutional, and the federal class actions against Zoom.
The Growing Flood of Coronavirus Litigation
CNN Business surveys the ongoing flood of coronavirus litigation, including the “hundreds of labor-and-employment cases pertaining to the pandemic that have been filed nationwide.” According to University of South Carolina law professor Joseph Seiner, who warned of a coming litigation “tidal wave,” the number of coronavirus lawsuits will likely “grow exponentially over the next six months to one year.” CNN also interviewed U.S. Chamber EVP and Chief Policy Officer Neil Bradley, who said that employers shouldn't have to worry about “unwarranted lawsuits” when they are “doing the best that they can in following the applicable public health guidelines.”
A Possible Compromise Coronavirus-Relief Bill
Reuters reports that congressional Democrats appear “open to delaying an October recess to get a deal with Republicans on a new coronavirus aid bill,” as a bipartisan group of moderate House members unveiled a compromise bill. According to the article, the White House urged Congress to consider this new proposal. The U.S. Chamber also praised the draft legislation, calling it “a reasonable middle ground,” and also urged lawmakers to include liability protections for businesses.
International Business-Interruption Insurance Litigation
According to the Wall Street Journal, the “debate over whether business-interruption insurance policies . . . cover a pandemic is increasingly being tested in global courts, drawing in regulators, insurers, industry groups and company owners.” As litigation over this question proceeds across the United States, international “regulators and insurers are pushing for judgments that can set a precedent that all sides that can then follow.” Policyholders have won favorable judgments against insurers in France and the United Kingdom, and important early test cases remain pending in Australia.
Federal Judge Strikes Down Pennsylvania Coronavirus Orders
The Pennsylvania Record examines U.S. District Judge William Stickman’s recent decision holding Pennsylvania’s coronavirus orders unconstitutional. Appointed by President Trump, Judge Stickman concluded that the State’s limitation on the size of outdoor gatherings violates the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble. He likewise concluded that the stay-at-home and business closure orders issued by the governor and state health department were unconstitutional. The governor plans to seek a stay pending appeal to the Third Circuit.
Federal Class Actions Against Zoom
Finally, Legal Newsline considers the several class actions filed in federal court against Zoom alleging that the company unlawfully shared users’ personal information and misrepresented its security protocols. In its recent motion to dismiss, Zoom argues (among other things) that the plaintiffs remain unharmed and that the company “has worked tirelessly since the pandemic’s onset to keep its services operational and secure, while developing and deploying extensive privacy and security enhancements to address new challenges caused by the massive uptick in non-corporate usage.”