As a planet we are seemingly united in the fight against the coronavirus. We all know the effects. Stock market suffering horrible losses, all sporting activities, schools, entertainment, movies, travel, cancelled for an unknown period. Panic abounds regarding necessary availability of supplies. Fear that we or our loved ones will be stricken. Almost everyone in the nation is affected. And when things go wrong, and we are damaged, we seek to address those responsible. As class action litigation sometimes becomes a necessity social repair tool on many different fronts for varying types of damages.
At the time of this writing the coronavirus is a new phenomenon. But these are some of the opening bell class actions or primed to arise. Being ‘safe’ sometimes may not be enough.
Note from Simpluris Management re COVID -19: Because of our leading technology our staff can always perform critical class action administration functions away from our offices in the safety of their homes. Administration of your cases are not affected in anyway.
Defendant People’s Republic of China et al – U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida
A unique class action lawsuit. Defendants are governmental entities in China. The allegation, they knew about a danger arising to others and waited too long to notify based on internal concerns. Instead of sounding the warning, they arrested or censured whistle blowing doctors speaking out regarding serious public health concerns. And while they knew the virus would spread easily from human to human it took defendants 17 days to report known findings to the world, concealing this critical information by which point the disease had already spread beyond China.
It is further alleged Wuhan leaders held a public dinner for over 40,000 families knowing the ease of spread of the virus, and that the Chinese government’s bungling of the coronavirus outbreak has transformed into a worldwide pandemic. And, that the National Biosafety Laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology is close to the marketplace where COVID-19 originated. This laboratory is reportedly China’s only “level 4” microbiology lab, dealing with “the deadliest of viruses.” Too much of a coincidence the lawsuit apparently alleges.
The plaintiff owns a photography studio specializing in high school sports. The coronavirus has allegedly ruined his business as schools are now closed.
Commentators have questioned attaining jurisdiction over these foreign governmental entities, and the obvious problems of discovery from the People’s Republic. And plaintiffs’ counsel is a conservative activist, raising the specter the lawsuit is simply politically motivated. The potential class size would be, of course, enormous, and Simpluris stands ready to provide expert notice calls action administration services pursuant to FRCP 23 to all Floridians and the nation for any class action notice or neutral class action administrator responsibilities.
Cruise Ships - Trapped with the Virus
Common carrier liability places the highest duty of care and vigilance of a very cautions person to do everything a person can do under the circumstances to avoid harm to a passenger. The usual circumstances are elevators, buses and trains (the legal concept’s birthplace), where the owner of the premises have total control. Add airplanes, ski lifts, roller coasters, even escalators --- in short … any place you can’t get off or out. But the standard falls short of a guarantee, such as a strict liability standard. The question to be asked would be whether the facility took ‘all reasonable measures’ to prevent exposure to the virus.
And include cruise ships. It all leads to a securities class action.
Diamond Princess – Securities Class Action U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida
Cruise ship passengers are in an enclosed environment. Vacationers are trapped, they cannot leave. Hence, exposure to any contagious disease is always an issue. 45 of the early U.S. Coronavirus cases involved the cruise ship Diamond Princess passengers, quarantined for a lengthy time in a Japan harbor. The facts discussed below lead to a plaintiff shareholder securities class action lawsuit against Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Ltd., the ship’s owner, alleging that the company employed misleading sales tactics related to the outbreak and news articles revealing this deception caused a serious drop in the stock’s price.
The class period begins on February 20, 2020, the date the company filed its 8-K with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The 8-K fourth quarter 2019 and year-end 2019 financial report contained a press release espousing that “despite the current known impact” from the coronavirus outbreak, as of February 14, 2020, “the Company’s booked position remained ahead of prior year and at higher prices on a comparable basis.” The press release also boasted that the company “has an exemplary track record of demonstrating its resilience in challenging environments” and that it had “proactively implemented several preventive measures to reduce potential exposure and transmission of COVID-19.”
The lawsuit rests upon numerous media reports detailing Norwegian Cruise Line managers instructing sales staff, using scripted answers, to provide false assurances and outright misstatements, and to lie to consumers regarding COVID-19. For instance, a March 11, 2020 Miami New Times article entitled “Leaked Emails: Norwegian Pressures Sales Team to Mislead Potential Customers About Coronavirus.” Upon release of the article company stock fell $5.47 per share, or about 27 percent.
A March 12, 2020, Washington Post article followed detailing Norwegian’s alleged spread of false statements regarding the virus attempting to protect profits. Included in that article --- “company leaders are trying to find out who shared the emails.” With this additional article, the suit alleges, the company’s stock fell another $5.38, about 36 percent, furthering injuring investors.
The lawsuit was filed before the overall stock market crash, seemingly raising a defense that the stock price would have fallen this much anyway. But the opening bell has just sounded.
Princess Cruise – Individual Case - U.S. District Court – California Central District
Almost 2,000 Grand Princess passengers, operated by Carnival Corp, were quarantined on U.S. military bases after discovery of infected passengers were found on the Grand Princess, a sister ship.
By the time leading cruise lines halted new trips, at least six other ships had sailed with at least one passenger later diagnosed with the highly contagious virus. It is contended that the cruise industry’s early opposition to sweeping action combined with deference to government officials placed more passengers at risk.
21 people onboard a Princess Cruise ship were found to have contracted the coronavirus. A Florida couple, passengers on the ship, filed a $1,000,000 lawsuit against cruise line for neglecting to shield passengers amid the Covid-19 (then) epidemic. The lawsuit alleges that “as a result of [Princess Cruises’] lackadaisical approach to the safety of the plaintiffs, its passengers and crew about the Grand Princess, plaintiffs are at actual risk of immediate physical injury.” The lawsuit further alleges the company failed to institute proper precautionary measures, including more meticulous assessment of passengers, along with an advisal and opportunity to disembark in Hawaii, one of the stops. Plaintiffs contend they wouldn’t have stepped on board if they aware of the "actual risk exposure." Even after the ship reached Hawaii, and a 75-year-old previously onboard was transported to the hospital died in California, the Grand Princess did not inform those onboard.
This is still an individual action but seemingly prime ground for probable future class actions.
Hand Sanitizers Class Actions
Against Germ-X - U.S. District Court – Southern District of California
Against Purell – Two action in U.S. District Court Northeastern District of Ohio
These newly filed class actions against hand sanitizer products contain essentially the same allegations even though they are against different companies, from varying attorneys and two thousand miles apart. These consumer protection lawsuits invoke the coronavirus as they allege these companies falsely marketed, advertised, and sold their hand sanitizers as virus prevention, including COVID-19. As the pandemic spreads in magnitude, consumers gravitate to products that provide a degree of protection and reassurance.
The lawsuits allege the manufacturers are making claims regarding the efficacy of the product unsubstantiated by any scientific proof to link the antiseptic value of the sanitizer to virus reduction or prevention, and then presenting misleading advertising about their products, even alleging that the U.S. government recommended its use. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) not long ago told one defendant manufacturer to stop misrepresenting its hand sanitizer as being able to prevent viruses devoid of any acceptable and studies in support of clinical reductions of the flu or other viruses.
More of these class actions are to be expected.
Nursing Homes – Class Actions Awaiting
One salient coronavirus fact --- the old and ill are more likely to perish from this virus. And about 2.5 million Americans live in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities. They are the most vulnerable. It is nursing homes job, their duty, to keep our frail and elderly as healthy as possible and among the living. And now, protecting them from even their loving family members who could be carriers of the virus. Indeed, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has banned visitors from its nursing homes.
In the Seattle, Washington area, the initial hotbed of Coronavirus activity, numerous nursing homes had warnings of these problems and failed to institute proper procedures, including warning visitors of the outbreak, and even advising them not to worry because five days had passed without any symptoms. While the 14-day window is now common knowledge certainly health care providers should have known more. The death toll from these nursing homes was the initial leading drive of the worst initial outbreak in America.
At Simpluris, we join with all American with hope and prayer this pandemic will be resolved sooner than later. Everyone needs to be safe out there. It only works if we look out for each other. And even though you have heard it so many times before ---- wash your hands.