COVID-19 lawsuits spreading like a virus through US courts
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by Charlotte PLANTIVE
While apps for video-conferencing and online courses have flourished during the COVID-19 pandemic, so have something rather more contentious: lawsuits.
More than 1,300 complaints linked to the coronavirus have already been filed in US courts, according to a daily tally kept by the law firm of Hunton Andrews Kurth.
“COVID has divided America and it has vast political implications,” Lawrence Gostin, a professor of public health law at Georgetown University, told AFP.
“There is a conflict between public health and freedom — all kinds of freedoms, like the right to work, to liberty, to protest, to buy a firearm…”
And since the United States is a “highly litigious society,” he added, these conflicts often end up in court.
A first wave of lawsuits has come from prisons and immigration centers, said Torston Kracht, a litigation partner with Hunton Andrews Kurth: prisoners have demanded to be paroled early, arguing that sanitary conditions in their facilities are poor and in some cases are aggravating detainees’ existing health problems.
Some prisoners, including former Donald Trump campaign director Paul Manafort and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, have won early release.
Others have found themselves caught up in epic legal battles: the US government has just asked the Supreme Court to block the early release of 800 inmates from the Elkton Federal Correctional Institution in eastern Ohio.
A federal judge in Cleveland had ordered the men liberated after nine of those infected died.
Meantime, several employees’ groups have sued their employers to demand better protection against the virus.
Thus, a union representing New York nurses filed suit to demand more masks, gloves and other protective equipment. (AFP)