April 24, 2020


The Chamber Litigation Blog has been reporting on, and analyzing, the litigation tsunami resulting from COVID-19. We are not, of course, alone. This recurring column highlights some other articles of interest.

Many recent articles have discussed lawsuits claiming that businesses are responsible when customers and employees are exposed to the novel coronavirus. For example, Bloomberg Law, Ending Virus Shutdowns Too Soon Poses Legal Risk for Businesses, describes pending cases and notes that “[a] wave of personal-injury cases could bankrupt businesses, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is recommending government protections.” Compliance with OSHA during the pandemic is the focus of a Fox Business article, Can Companies Be Liable For Coronavirus When Employees Return To Work? The article quotes the Chamber’s President, Suzanne Clark, as explaining that it would be nearly impossible for every employer to make PPE available once the country reopens due to a lack of supplies, and that the federal government needs to clarify the “scope of liability for the provision (or inability to provide due to scarcity) of PPE.”

Speaking of PPE, a Wall Street Journal article, Coronavirus-Related Production Shifts Bring Liability, Compliance Risks, analyzes legal risks faced by companies that retool to produce masks, ventilators, and other urgently needed medical equipment. It also provides an interesting discussion of the extent to which the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act of 2005 protects such businesses.

Another Wall Street Journal article on force majeure clauses, Coronavirus Contract Disputes Start Hitting the Courts, explains that “[a] wave of litigation is expected in the coming months” as “[c]ompanies are suspending or terminating business agreements by relying on a common but rarely invoked escape hatch in . . . many commercial contracts, as the new coronavirus and government measures to slow its spread upend the economy.”

An op-ed by Blanche Lincoln and Rick Santorum in USA Today, Doctors, nurses must make hard decisions in pandemic. Let's protect them from lawsuits, discusses how “a minority of bad actors attempt to take advantage of” heroic efforts to fight the pandemic by filing opportunistic lawsuits. It also quotes the President of the Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform, Harold Kim, as explaining that this early litigation is just “the tip of the iceberg.