We’ve already discussed how we perceive the response to COVID-19 to go: there will be an influx of new cases, some with merit, most without. And, for better or worse, we were right. The landslide of coronavirus-related cases is difficult to follow, but we’re doing our best. Other law firms and legal experts have already agreed that litigating these cases — i.e. providing liability — is the biggest challenge.
Because personal injury lawyers work on contingency (meaning we only get paid when we win a case for our clients), we tend to avoid taking on cases that are destined to fail. Sometimes, when we strongly believe in a case’s merit but aren’t sure if it will win, we might provide our services pro bono.
A number of new wrongful death lawsuits have challenged companies like Walmart or Royal Carribean, a popular cruise line. Are they liable when a customer or employee catch coronavirus and succumb to COVID-19? Of course, the circumstances for each individual case matter most.
The legal teams for these companies have mostly all made the same argument: that is, that Workers Comp and similar legal remedies are already in place and should be utilized in place of civil litigation (something that can be time-consuming and costly for court systems).
Congress might reduce these cases to ash before they can really get going at all, though.
Mike Duff, a professor for Workers Comp at the University of Wyoming, said, “It is entirely conceivable that federal action could immunize employers or companies even from liability of these lawsuits.”
And even if Congress does nothing to protect businesses (as unlikely a scenario as that is), there’s still the question of how we can provide that a person actually contracted coronavirus on the job and not at home or while out walking the job. No one lives at work. There’s no easy answer to that question. It might come down to the political leaning of a particular judge — which isn’t how anyone wants these cases to go.