Coronavirus has dominated headlines since the World Health Organization (WHO) released an outbreak and emergency notification in December 2019. Since then the virus has spread to every continent, with exception to Antarctica, and has more than 116,000 confirmed cases with more than 4,000 fatalities globally (as of publication on 3/10/2020). Countries, entities, businesses and individuals have recently been implementing government mandated or self-imposed quarantines to help limit the spread of the Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. However, what happens if you believe that an entity withheld information or misled customers about the circumstances of this global pandemic?
As the confirmed cases continue to emerge, we can anticipate the growing lawsuits will grow as well. Those directly impacted by the spread of this virus may be filing lawsuits against entities regarding the procedures and policies implemented by an entity. On March 10, 2020 a lawsuit in the United States was brought on by a Florida couple suing for $1,000,000 USD.
Who Can Sue for Negligence for Coronavirus Exposure?
One of the first cases was filed against a cruise ship company by a Florida couple. The couple, who were passengers on the Grand Princess cruise ship docked outside of Oakland under quarantine, have filed a lawsuit for one million dollars alleging that Princess Cruise Lines withheld information from passengers. The lawsuit claims that a previous voyage by the same cruise ship had alerted passengers of the exposure to COVID-19 but that their respective cruise was not disseminated the same information as the prior voyage. As a result the couple is suing the cruise line for it’s handling of Coronavirus.
The claimants in Florida are stating that Princess Cruise Lines were aware of the outbreak on their cruise lines and the lawsuit states that the company decided to continue with business even with “knowing that the ship was infected from two previous passengers who came down with symptoms of COVID-19, and had sixty two passengers on board.”
The couple claims that if they had known that the vessel had documented cases of Coronavirus prior to their embarkment, they would have cancelled the trip or disembarked at a different location. This case is currently pending and will have to be followed closely.
What Are Acts of God?
This case will set somewhat of a precedent in the Florida court system for how Coronavirus cases are handled in the state and country. Some contracts have stipulations that outline “acts of God”. Acts of God are defined as:
“an extraordinary interruption by a natural cause (such as a flood or earthquake) of the usual course of events that experience, prescience, or care cannot reasonably foresee or prevent”
Acts of God are important because it can limit the business entity’s damages during an event out of their control. However, there are some limitations especially if the defendant was aware of an issue and did not properly disclose that information.
Can You Sue a Government Agency or Hospital for Coronavirus?
Coronavirus does not target different demographics equally. “Older” individuals have a higher mortality rate than their younger counterparts. Those with pre-existing respiratory and additional underlying conditions are more susceptible to succumbing this virus. As a result, those that are more prone to this virus should be extra diligent when it comes to limiting exposure to large gatherings along with more robust personal hygiene practices. During this time it is a safe practice to limit your exposure to crowds if you are older or suffer from pre-existing health conditions.
If you or a loved one has been impacted as a result of negligence from a government agency then a lawsuit may be possible. Costa Mesa, CA recently filed a lawsuit against the United States Government for attempting to quarantine individuals in the city. A judge ruled that the United States could not house these individuals in California. The city of Costa Mesa successfully sued the US Government and in this specific instance the city was successful.
Due to the lack of lawsuits filed by individuals against hospitals or governments at this point in time, there is quite a bit of unknown regarding what type of lawsuits will be filed and how the court systems process these claims. A wrongful death attorney may take your case but it is best to discuss the facts with a lawyer in your specific region.
To summarize, there have been lawsuits levied against entities in the United States regarding Coronavirus. However, none of these cases involving individuals are yet to work their way through the court systems. Since lawsuits can take years to process, it might be an extended period of time until verdicts or settlements are reached.
Many organizations impacted by this virus may be facing lawsuits from affected individuals. These entities include hospitals, restaurants, day care centers, nursing homes and hotels. However, many more entities are likely to be impacted in the future. Unless the virus is contained as quickly as possible, one of the many outcomes might be a surge of lawsuits against businesses.
*This is a developing story and new details emerge regularly. Information in this article was published on March, 10 2020.