First and foremost, we at Mirick O’Connell hope that you and your family are healthy, and surviving the worst global pandemic in 100 years. As we move through the various stages of battling this virus, it is all but certain we will see major litigation arising out of it. That litigation will likely take many forms.
One sector likely to be hit hard is the cruise and travel industry. We have all heard the news stories about cruise ships being stuck on the water for weeks, as the COVID-19 illness spreads through a huge percentage of the passengers. There will likely be claims in the coming months and years that these ships should not have ever left port with a very predictable outbreak on the horizon, and also claims that once the outbreak worsened, they should have returned before infection rates reached these levels. Claims such as these will be easier to establish than some other claims of infection, as there will often be no doubt as to where an infected person contracted the illness.
Another contentious area of litigation that will arise out of COVID-19 will be insurance bad-faith claims and insurance coverage litigation. There has already been significant publicity surrounding insurance coverage issues for restaurants that have been forced to close by state and local governments. Many insurance policies have exclusions for bacterial or viral outbreaks, and insurance companies will likely fight hard against paying these claims. Already, businesses are claiming they do not need to pay rent, pursuant to force majeure clauses.