Lawsuits Loom Over COVID-19 Exposure As Businesses Reopen Around the U.S.

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As businesses reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, tort reformers are mobilizing to enact federal and state protections against an anticipated plethora of personal injury lawsuits, writes Amanda Bronstad of

“Our real focus is on recognizing, as businesses reopen, there will be a new line of potential challenges,” said Sherman Joyce, president of the American Tort Reform Association, “and a lot of businesses almost see having some protection, a reasonable type of protection against the potential for endless litigation, as a necessity for them to be able to reopen.”

In a white paper released this month, ATRA warned of lawsuits brought against a range of businesses alleging exposure to the coronavirus, even if plaintiffs never get ill. It references lawsuits already brought against Princess Cruise for emotional distress.

ATRA is pushing for federal legislation, but that remains an “open question,” Joyce said, given the opposition. The organization also is targeting state legislatures, focused on protections that would distinguish between lawsuits involving a “significant injury” and no injury at all, he said.

“There’s a clear line of demarcation of the type of cases that should see the light of day,” Joyce said. Being out sick for two or three weeks, but recovering from home, is not the same as ending up on a ventilator. “It’s drawing lines between the more serious cases and those that seem to be a little, candidly, less serious,” he said.

Joyce, of ATRA, said the success of such a lawsuit did not matter.

“If you’re a business starting to reopen after having no revenue for two months, and you get a bunch of lawsuits, that’s a burden and expense even if they get dismissed,” he said.

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