COVID-19 Class Actions Weekly Round-Up - May 2020 #2

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Bennett Jones LLPThe wave of COVID-related claims against long-term care facilities and insurers shows no signs of breaking anytime soon. The past week has also seen several novel claims launched against test manufacturers and governments.

Negligence and Breach of Contract Actions

  • In Ontario, a class action has been brought against Ticketmaster for their refusal to issue refunds for events that have been postponed or rescheduled amid the pandemic. The claim alleges that Ticketmaster had promised a refund if an event was “postponed, rescheduled or canceled”. On March 14, 2020, with no accompanying press release, Ticketmaster's policy was changed—only promising a refund upon a cancellation. Ticketmaster has responded that they did not alter their refund policy; the website's language had simply been clarified.
  • Also in Ontario, a class action has been filed alleging negligence by operators of Lundy Manor, a Niagara Falls retirement home, where several residents have died after contracting COVID-19. The claim alleges that management failed to adequately protect residents and train staff—noting that employees were told by management they could wear the same protective gowns when interacting with multiple patients. The claim also states that Lundy Manor management held a pub night for its residents in late March, disregarding staff's concerns.

Insurance

  • In Georgia, a dentist has filed a class action against Hartford Financial Services Group and several of its subsidiaries for denial of loss of income claims resulting from suspension of operations during the pandemic.
  • In New Jersey, a class action has been filed against Chubb Ltd. and Indemnity Insurance Company of North America. Benito Ristorante alleges breach of contractual obligations under all-risk commercial property insurance policies and seeks a declaration that the pandemic and corresponding response by civil authorities triggers coverage and has caused physical loss and damage.

Price Gouging

  • In California, a class action has been launched against eBay for purported violations of California's consumer protection laws. The plaintiff, an Uber driver, sought to buy N95 masks to protect herself from workplace exposure to the virus. She bought a two-pack off of eBay for $23.98, which the claim alleges represented a nearly 300% markup of its normal retail price. The claim relies on California's anti-price gouging statute, which specifically prohibits price gouging during a declared emergency.

Actions Relating to Government Relief Programs

  • In Wisconsin, a class action has been filed against the U.S. government on behalf of individuals whose spouses lack Social Security numbers, often because their spouses are immigrants. Under the CARES Act, individuals were prohibited from receiving $1,200 stimulus checks if they filed taxes jointly with people lacking social security numbers. The plaintiffs estimate that roughly 1.2 million Americans are married to immigrants who do not hold Social Security numbers, and argue that the CARES Act deprives them of their constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

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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