COVID-19 Class Actions Weekly Round-Up - May 2020 #3

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Bennett Jones LLPThe number of COVID-19 related class proceeding and analogous claims continues to rise, with the number of actions in the United States approaching 300 and claims in Canada nearing 20. There are now claims on both sides of the border against universities. Care facilities, insurers and airlines are the subject of new claims.

Negligence and Breach of Contract Actions

  • In British Columbia, a claim has been filed against the University of Victoria on behalf of university students in respect of the non-refund of parking pass fees. 
  • In Quebec, students from 15 of the province's universities have filed a claim seeking a partial refund of their tuition as a result of COVID-19 related disruptions, including loss of access to libraries and training seminars as well as class cancelations. A similar claim has been brought in New Jersey, against Washington-based Georgetown University.
  • In Massachusetts, two Boston University undergraduates have filed a claim against the school for its failure to refund students for unused services and the alleged “decreased value of the education” they received as a result of the transition to online learning. The students note that, despite admissions from the university's president that online learning “is not a substitute for living and learning in our academic community,” the school has argued that no refunds are owed because classes continued for the rest of the semester. Several similar claims have been commenced against other universities in the United States.
  • In Alberta, a claim has been commenced against Revera Living on behalf of residents infected with COVID-19 at the Calgary McKenzie Towne care home, and their families. The claim alleges that Revera failed to take reasonable steps in responding to the pandemic.
  • In Ontario, a claim has been commenced against Chartwell Retirement Residences and Long Term Care Homes alleging failures in their COVID-19 response. The claim is brought on behalf of all persons who live or lived at Chartwell Home from January 10, 2020, until the end of the pandemic and their family members.
  • In California, a class action has been launched against the German airline Lufthansa. The plaintiff's flight to Nigeria was cancelled because of COVID-19, prompting the plaintiff to contact the airline to collect her cash refund. Lufthansa advised the plaintiff that the matter should be taken up with Expedia.com, the site from which she bought the ticket. Expedia.com issued a voucher to the plaintiff and explained that the cash refund she sought could be issued only with instructions from Lufthansa.

Insurance

  • In California, a barbershop owner has filed a class action against Farmers Insurance Company after the insurer denied its claims for loss of income. Besides the “Business Interruption” clause being relied on in similar claims, the plaintiff argues that Farmers must provide coverage under the “Civil Authority” and “Extra Expense” clauses of Farmers’ special property policy for business owners.  
  • Also in California, a storeowner has brought a class action against Travelers Insurance after denial of its loss of income claims. The claim is complicated by a clause in the relevant policy that excludes claims for “loss or damage caused by or resulting from any virus”.

Employment

  • In Illinois, a United Airlines shift manager has brought a class action against his employer on behalf of all United non-union employees who have been subjected to an unpaid time off program. The claim asserts that United breached its obligations under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act paycheck protection program, which provides that employers can only receive funds if they refrain from reducing pay rates until September 30, 2020. Allegedly despite assurances to the contrary, United implemented an unpaid time off program after receiving the paycheck protection funds in which certain employees had to take 20 unpaid days off prior to September 30, 2020.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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