COVID-19 Lawsuits

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21 May 2020

Law firm predicts increase in class action litigation for Covid-19 abuses

Author: Morrison & Foerster LLP

"Class Action Litigation In The Wake Of COVID-19," 13 May 2020

Class action claims have taken on a new twist in the wake of COVID-19. Already, the global pandemic has generated litigation across a broad swath of areas, including privacy, data security, and consumer, among others. To date, hundreds of business lawsuits related to the pandemic are pending, with dozens more filed weekly...

Among the first cases filed related to the pandemic were a variety of privacy and data security related class actions. Plaintiffs focused on companies that now have a spotlight on them due to increased usage during shelter-in-place orders. Across the technology industry, a variety of online services are blitzscaling—or rapidly growing—based on skyrocketing demand from consumers for food delivery, e-commerce, and virtual social connections...

TCPA cases continue to be active as COVID-19 issues have emerged. MoFo’s Class Dismissed blog recently reviewed the March 20, 2020 FCC Declaratory Ruling allowing certain calls for “emergency purposes” amidst the pandemic. That does not mean, however, that there is a blanket exemption from the TCPA’s rules governing certain calls and messages, and multiple TCPA lawsuits have been filed involving coronavirus-related communications. In a case filed in late April, the Texas Attorney General sued two parties for alleged violations of the TCPA and the Texas state law corollary. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that a marketing service advertised health benefit plans by stating that they “include coronavirus testing and treatment.”..


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21 May 2020

USA: Employees file class action lawsuit against McDonald's for lack of protective measures during COVID-19

Author: Tom Hals, Reuters

"U.S. workers hit McDonald's with class action over COVID-19 safety," 19 May 2020

Five McDonald’s workers in Chicago filed a class action lawsuit against the chain on Tuesday, accusing it of failing to adopt government safety guidance on COVID-19 and endangering employees and their families.

McDonald’s failed to provide adequate hand sanitizer, gloves and masks and has not notified its staff when an employee has become infected with the new coronavirus, according to a copy of the lawsuit provided by a spokesman for the workers.

McDonald’s said in a statement that the allegations were inaccurate and that safety, including wellness checks and protective gear, was a top priority.

The workers requested the Illinois state court issue an injunction, which would make McDonald’s stop requiring workers to reuse masks, mandate face coverings for customers and require the company to inform employees if a coworker becomes infected.

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20 May 2020

USA: Ex-employee sues Amazon for alleged wrongful termination related to protesting lack of coronavirus safety measures

Author: Monica Nickelsburg, Geek Wire

"Ex-Amazon employee sues for wrongful termination, claims coronavirus whistleblowing led to firing," 5 May 2020

A former Amazon employee is suing the company, claiming she was wrongfully terminated after taking time off to recover from COVID-19-like symptoms and sounding the alarm about safety concerns inside the warehouse where she worked.

It appears to be the first lawsuit brought by an Amazon employee over the company’s response to the coronavirus crisis, a subject of much criticism and activism over the past few weeks.

Enesha Yurchak filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Circuit Court of the State of Oregon. She worked as an on-site emergency medical technician at a warehouse in Salem, Ore., according to the complaint. It names Amazon and her former supervisors as defendants and seeks damages.

Yurchak took time off in early March when she began experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19, according to the complaint. Upon her return in mid-April, Yurchak says she witnessed violations of safety policies designed to stem the spread of the virus. She and several coworkers were asked, at that time, to wash other employees’ personal protective equipment...

The company did not respond to GeekWire’s request to comment on the lawsuit. News of the suit was reported earlier today by The Oregonian.

“Amazon acted with malice, showed a reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm, and acted with a conscious indifference to the health, safety and welfare of others,” the complaint says.

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11 May 2020

UK: IWGB & Uber drivers sue govt. over failure to protect health & income of millions of low-paid, self-employed workers

Author: Independent Workers Union of Great Britain

“IWGB and Uber drivers suing UK government over its failure to protect millions of precarious workers”, 07 May 2020

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) and two Uber drivers have filed a legal challenge against the UK government … over its failure to provide satisfactory income and sickness protection to millions of low-paid and self-employed workers during the Covid-19 pandemic. The claimants will argue that this failure constitutes discrimination against self-employed limb (b) workers, BAME workers and women.

The income protection provided by the government’s proposed Self-Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) is significantly worse than that provided to employees through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, constituting discrimination against self-employed … workers … In particular:

  • There is an unacceptable delay as the scheme will only be introduced in June
  • It excludes workers that became self-employed after 6 April 2019
  • It excludes those who derive less than 50% of their income from self-employment
  • It doesn’t cover on-going overheads most self-employed workers have

The claimants will further argue that the current … Statutory Sick Pay … discriminates against women, BAME workers and workers in the so-called “gig economy” for whom these payments are not enough to survive on or in some cases not even available at all.

The current arrangements are also a major threat to public health, since many workers are forced to continue working while sick or while they should be self-isolating in order to survive.

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7 May 2020

Consumers file first wave of Covid-19 lawsuits against companies for damages

Author: Elaine Allaby, Wired (United Kingdom)

"Here comes the first wave of coronavirus lawsuits", 5 May 2020

The webpage appeared online at the end of March. “Dear Coronavirus victims,” it said. “If you were at the ski resorts of Ischgl, Paznauntal, St. Anton am Arlberg, Sölden or Zillertal on March 5, 2020 or later, and shortly afterwards were diagnosed with the coronavirus, then you may be entitled to claim damages.”

As of early May, 5,500 people have responded to the call. Peter Kolba, its author and the head of the legal department at the Austrian Consumer Protection Association VSV, has lodged a criminal complaint over Austrian officials’ delays in closing Ischgl ski resort in Tyrol after a bartender tested positive for the virus...

... Kolba is not the only person in Europe trying to hold the authorities in his country legally responsible for their role in coronavirus infections and deaths...

...In France, 600 doctors calling themselves the C19 Collective have brought a criminal case accusing the French prime minister and former health minister of failing to adequately prepare for the epidemic...

...In Italy, criminal investigations have been opened by public prosecutors offices around the country, the most high profile of which will try to determine responsibility for devastating localised outbreaks in Bergamo and Genoa...

...One common factor across all these cases is that the courts in most countries work slowly, and many trials will take years to come to an end.

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1 May 2020

USA: Celebrity Cruises sued by employees over lack of protection measures for COVID-19

Author: Amanda Maile & Mina Kaji, ABC News (USA)

"Employees sue Celebrity Cruises over COVID-19 response", 15 Apr 2020

A class action lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of over a thousand Celebrity Cruises employees alleges the company failed to protect its crew members working aboard ships amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

...The lawsuit claims that the cruise industry received an "early warning of how easily COVID-19 could spread on massive ocean liners" when the first cases were reported on Princess Cruises' Diamond Princess... 

"Despite having notice that COVID-19 was and/or likely was present aboard the vessels," the complaint alleges the company allowed its employees to attend crew parties aboard the ships, eat in buffet settings and mandated their participation in shipboard drills.

...According to the CDC, over the last two months outbreaks on three cruise ships have caused more than 800 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States among passengers and crew, including 10 deaths...

...While guests have disembarked, and all major cruise lines have temporarily suspended passenger cruises in the U.S., many employees are still stuck at sea...

When asked for comment, Celebrity Cruises said it does not comment on pending litigation.



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30 April 2020

USA: Estate of Walmart employee who died from COVID-19 sues company for failure to protect workers

Author: Daniel Wiessner, Reuters

"Estate of Walmart worker who died from COVID-19 sues for wrongful death," 7 Apr 2020

The family of a Walmart Inc employee in Illinois who died after contracting COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, has filed a lawsuit accusing the retail giant of failing to adequately screen and protect workers.

The lawsuit filed in Illinois state court on Monday by the estate of Wando Evans says the Walmart store south of Chicago was not properly cleaned and employees were not given masks, gloves, antibacterial wipes or other protective equipment...

Arkansas-based Walmart said it had conducted “a deep-cleaning of key areas” in the Illinois store, which has passed a health department inspection and a separate third-party review over the last week, according to a statement provided by a spokesman.

“We have taken steps across the country to protect our associates and customers, including additional cleaning measures, installing sneeze guards at registers, placing social distancing decals on the floors and limiting the number of customers in a store at a given time,” the company said.

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30 April 2020

USA: Worker & NGO sue Smithfield Food requesting injunction to force company to comply with public health guidelines

Author: Sebastian Martinez Valdivia & Dan Margolies, NPR

"Workers Sue Smithfield Foods, Allege Conditions Put Them At Risk For COVID-19," 24 Apr 2020

Smithfield Foods, one of the biggest meat producers in the country, is operating its plant in Milan, Mo., "in a manner that contributies" to the spread of the coronavirus, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday in Kansas City.

The suit, brought by a plant worker identified as Jane Doe and by a nonprofit that advocates for plant workers, accuses Smithfield of failing to provide workers with sufficient protective equipment; forcing them to work shoulder to shoulder; giving them insufficient opportunities to wash their hands; discouraging them from taking sick leave; and failing to implement a plan for testing and contact tracing...

Smithfield's South Dakota plant, which handles 5% of U.S. pork production, has become a coronavirus hot spot, with 783 workers testing positive for the virus so far and two of them dying. The first worker there tested positive for the virus on March 24, but the plant was not closed until April 14.

Smithfield also shut down its plants in Martin City, Mo., and Cudahy, Wis., last week because they rely on raw materials from the South Dakota plant, according to a Smithfield press release...

In a statement, Keira Lombardo, executive vice president of corporate affairs and compliance for Smithfield Foods, said the company does not comment on pending litigation but then said: "The health and safety of our employees is our top priority at all times. The allegations contained in the complaint are without factual or legal merit and include claims previously made against the company that have been investigated and determined to be unfounded. We look forward to aggressively defending the company in court."...

The lawsuit doesn't seek money damages. Rather, it asks for an injunction to force Smithfield to comply with Centers for Disease Control and public health guidelines.

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