(April 3) The last thing this country needs as it tries to recover from the coronavirus pandemic is a spate of lawsuits trying to scapegoat others for the contagion. Yet, such lawsuits are already queuing up in American courts, making it even more important for Congress to intervene against them.

As I wrote nearly three weeks ago, this pandemic is (in insurance terms) an “act of God,” and it’s absurd to try to assess legal blame for it. It’s also immoral to try to profiteer from it, especially at the expense of third parties who, like everyone else, were in uncharted territory in dealing with the crisis.

And, on a macroeconomic level, these lawsuits can hamstring companies that are desperately needed for the nation’s economic recovery. They also could further jam up a court system that already will face backlogs because so many court proceedings are being postponed during all the “stay-at-home” orders from state and local authorities.

Alas, as USA Today reports, “Workers are suing companies. Businesses are suing insurers. Prison inmates and migrants in detention, abortion providers and gun shop owners are suing federal and state governments. Colleges, cruise lines, and even China have been among the targets of lawsuits seeking damages for the COVID-19 calamity. And the nation’s notoriously litigious society is just getting started…. Type ‘coronavirus lawsuit’ into Google and watch the numbers explode. A recent attempt turned up nearly 3 billion hits in one-third of a second.”

Obviously, there will be contract disputes that arise from all the event and venue closures. Courts obviously will need to resolve those. What should be banned is tort lawsuits, trying to assess blame and secure damage payments for a situation in which just about everybody was flying blind….

[The rest of the column on this topic of growing importance can be found here.]


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