Coronavirus Litigation:COVID-19 Pandemic Plays Out in Court
April 8, 2020 | Coronavirus
As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to plague the United States and the rest of the world, public officials in multiple offices have been served with lawsuits over the way they have handled various aspects of the global crisis.
From price-gouging vendors to the nation of China, defendants are being accused of anything from taking advantage of desperate customers to hiding knowledge that has led to thousands of deaths.
Here are some of the lawsuits which have been filed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Insider Trading: U.S. Senator Richard Burr Dumps Up To $1.7 in Stocks
A Republican Senator from North Carolina has been hit with public scrutiny, calls for his resignation, and a huge lawsuit after he reportedly dumped up to $1.7 in stocks after being briefed confidentially about the COVID-19 pandemic and how it could potentially impact the economy of the United States.
While the senator made promises to the public that he was well-prepared to handle the pandemic, he was selling his stock as quickly as possible.
Alan Jacobson, a shareholder of Wyndham Hotels, has filed a lawsuit in federal court in Washington D.C. alleging that Senator Burr exploited insider information when he dumped the stocks just before the global markets collapsed.
Now, along with the Wyndham lawsuit, the Justice Department is also looking into that sell-off.
The senator and his wife sold as much as $150,000 worth of Wyndham stock just before the hotel chain took a financial thrashing.
Burr reportedly dumped his shares on February 13, when the hotel chain stock price closed at $59.10.
After the pandemic choked out travel, the stocks sank to $28.83, half of what they were before news of the virus hit the world.
Price Gouging Subpoenas Issued in Florida
As many as 56 third-party sellers have been issued subpoenas in Florida by the state’s Attorney General, Ashley Moody.
While price gouging is usually a problem that the state faces during hurricanes, the recent pandemic has created a new opportunity for scammers to try and take advantage of those in need.
Moody says that her office has received over 1200 complaints and that every one of them will be investigated.
Along with issuing dozens of subpoenas, the investigation has led to the deactivation of over a hundred online posts and managed to get over $79,000 in refunds for victims of the price-gouging.
Any business which is caught in this activity will be fined up to $25,000.
Moody asked that any citizen who sees price gouging report it to her office.
Since activating Florida’s Price Gouging Hotline at 866-9NO- SCAM, the response team has received calls about over 1200 incidences about the price of essential commodities, made over 1900 contacts and referrals to sellers who were accused of scams, refunds, and price gouging, issued as many as 56 subpoenas, and shut down online scamming platforms. More subpoenas could be issued soon.
Business Disruption in Nonessential Small Businesses
There have also been lawsuits filed by small businesses who claim that orders to close their “nonessential businesses” violated their civil rights. One firearms store and a gun-rights group have filed suit in New Jersey against the state police and Governor Phil Murphy.
The suit by Legend Firearms and the New Jersey Second Amendment Society and Second Amendment Foundation claims that citizens were denied their right to bear arms when the store was forced to close, and the governor “ran afoul” of the constitutions of the state and the nation.
Another group of businesses in Pennsylvania claims to be “on the precipice of economic collapse” because the government has failed to compensate those businesses that suffered a substantial financial loss because of the COVID-19 closures.
This group is suing the state government because of the “diminution of value in their property.”
Five other small businesses have joined together to sue the nation of China in a Nevada federal court on March 23rd.
This lawsuit claims that China engaged in a coverup of the seriousness of the coronavirus in the weeks that followed the first diagnosis in the country of China.
The suit also says that the pandemic that followed has caused small businesses in the United States to suffer billions of dollars in damages.
Businesses Want Insurance to be Forced to Cover Their Losses
Businesses other than the ones mentioned above have filed lawsuits demanding that their insurance policies cover the losses that their businesses have sustained because of the pandemic.
Both the Choctaw and the Chickasaw Nations have filed lawsuits against an AIG unit, as well as Lloyd’s of London and several other insurance companies.
The Oklahoma nations are requesting that the courts agree for their financial losses at their casinos and other businesses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic be covered by their policies.
Both tribes have had to close their casinos and other businesses in the hopes that it would slow down the spread of the coronavirus.
A chef in California has made similar demands, petitioning a court to determine whether or not Chef Thomas Keller should be able to recover his losses from the pandemic.
Keller wants Hartford Fire Insurance Company to pay him for his business losses because of the pandemic.
Nurse Claims Whistleblower Status in Employment Suit
In another coronavirus litigation, a nurse from Chicago claims that she was removed from her job at Northwestern Memorial Hospital after she warned her coworkers that the masks they were provided would not protect them against the coronavirus as the N95 masks would.
The nurse sent an email out to warn her colleagues and was fired the next day.
On March 23rd, this nurse filed a lawsuit under the Illinois Whistleblower Act in the Illinois state court.
She states that she chose to use the N95 mask that she owned because it was safer than those provided by the hospital.
In her email, she told other hospital employees that her mask would filter out 95 percent of particles while the hospital masks would not.
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