Using timely research, Blank Rome’s COVID-19 litigation team provides a weekly report highlighting the latest cases and updates in key litigation areas, such as workplace claims, class actions, breach of contract claims, and more. The team also looks at emerging trends surrounding the pandemic and offers practical considerations for your business.
TRENDS THAT WE ARE SEEING:
Nevada passed a law this month that provides a greater level of protection to businesses from lawsuits during the pandemic (beginning March 2020 through 2023) but also required that specific detailed regulations be enacted relating to workplace safety and COVID testing:
Nevada: Nevada businesses, government entities, and non-profit organizations are protected from liability from personal injury and wrongful death claims relating to COVID exposures. To obtain the protection of this law, businesses must “substantially comply” with all controlling COVID health standards at all governmental levels. Businesses that are “grossly negligent” in violating these standards cannot benefit from this immunity and risk suspension of business licenses.
In addition, the law mandates that public accommodation facilities (hotels, casinos, and other rental spaces) provide greater protections to workers and customers. These facilities must, among other things, adopt protocols to encourage workers and guests to remain six feet apart and to create and implement an extensive cleaning and disinfecting program. In addition, hospitality workers must be tested for COVID-19 before coming to work, and hotels and casinos must notify employees within 24 hours if they were in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.
Other states have passed similar immunity laws relating to business and premises liability. Several states—Iowa, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming—have sought to protect public-facing businesses from claims alleging that customers contracted COVID-19 while on the premises. However, the scope of these laws vary widely by state. For instance, in Georgia, businesses receive immunity from COVID-claims unless the claimant can show the business was grossly negligent or had engaged in any other intentional, reckless, or willful conduct (and a business receives rebuttable presumption of immunity if a customer receives a receipt when entering the premises disclaiming civil liability or the business has posted a very specific warning sign disclaiming civil liability). In North Carolina, the grant of immunity extends only to healthcare facilities and other essential businesses (like grocery stores and restaurants). Other states, like Massachusetts, have granted immunity only to health care workers in a variety of fields (like hospitals, clinics and nursing homes).
None of these state’s immunity protections extend to conduct rising to the level of gross negligence, fraud, or willful misconduct, but that is generally all that these laws have in common. Instead, each state’s immunity law is significantly different, with varying covered businesses, potential safe harbors, applicable time periods, as well as possible other warnings or carve-outs. Unless the federal government were to enact a law at that level (and Congress had been debating such a law this summer, without any consensus however), businesses should ensure to understand the landscape for any potential immunity in each state they operate.
Breach of Contract Claims
Weddings and Other Event Cancellations (Contract)
Several suits alleging business interruption and revenue/profit losses by a variety of businesses across the country. Notable cases: