Some coronavirus lawsuits take aim at individuals and companies that allegedly sought to profit during a time of crisis; others argue that greater care could have helped stem the disease’s spread.
Sanders Phillips Grossman is on the front line of coronavirus litigation as we file and investigate lawsuits. For the latest legal news, follow Sanders Phillips Grossman on Twitter and join us on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Have an idea for a coronavirus lawsuit? Get in touch with a lawyer.
Price Gouging Coronavirus Lawsuits
At a time when customers are panic buying, distribution networks are being stretched thin, and critical supplies are experiencing increased demand, opportunists may be exploiting the coronavirus crisis to line their own pockets. According to an investigation by the Associated Press, there has been a surge in coronavirus-related price-gouging claims across the United States, such as $60 bottles of hand sanitizer, face masks for $40/pair, and a gallon of Clorox bleach marked up to $8.99.
States are using existing laws, passing new ones, and taking executive action to combat price gouging. Typically, price gouging laws take effect when a state of emergency has been declared.
The types of goods, services, and businesses covered by price gouging laws vary from state to state. For example, Idaho’s law is limited to only four kinds of items: fuel, food, drugs, and water, while California law applies to certain “major necessities.” However, a number of states have no laws on the books and currently aren’t considering any. Federal price-gouging legislation has also been introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Attorney General William Barr promised that the U.S. Justice Department would hold accountable “bad actors” who violate antitrust laws. President Trump signed an executive order to prevent price gouging and hoarding of medical supplies.
State attorneys general have the authority to issue cease-and-desist letters to price gougers, investigate them, issue fines, and file lawsuits. Complaints can be made directly to state authorities at https://www.consumerresources.org/.
Price-gouged coronavirus consumers can take legal matters into their own hands as well. On March 10, a Florida woman filed a class-action lawsuit against Amazon for allegedly raising prices on toilet paper and hand sanitizer. She claims that Amazon and other retailers are “preying upon the public’s fear of a surging epidemic and using COVID-19 as an opportunity to pad profits by way of unlawful price increases.”
Were you the victim of price gouging amid the coronavirus outbreak? Let us know.
Coronavirus False Claims Lawsuits
As shoppers stock up on supplies that can possibly protect against coronavirus, companies stand to profit from hyping certain health benefits of their products. However, both state and federal laws prohibit companies from making false or misleading product claims. Those that do make bogus health claims can face legal action from government authorities and private consumers.
- Germ-X is being sued for allegedly making false claims that its hand sanitizer can protect against coronavirus. A proposed California class action lawsuits states that “scientific studies have shown that alcohol-based hand sanitizers like Germ-X are not effective for the prevention of the flu and other viruses.” The class argues that consumers purchased large quantities of hand sanitizer based on false claims by Germ-X, and that the company is profiting from deceptive marketing. They cite a similar lawsuit filed against the maker of Purell. In January, the FDA warned Purell over claims that its hand sanitizer can prevent diseases such as Ebola and the flu.
- Jim Bakker faces a State of Missouri lawsuit after falsely implying that his Silver Solution could cure coronavirus. According to the complaint, Bakker made the claims when there is, in fact, no product available to treat or cure coronavirus. The televangelist also received cease and desist orders from the New York Attorney General’s office and the FDA.
- InfoWars CEO Alex Jones is under fire for marketing his products as coronavirus treatments. Jones told viewers of his program that a toothpaste he sells “kills the whole SARS-corona family at point-blank range.” The New York AG ordered Jones to stop selling and marketing products as a treatment or cure for coronavirus and threatened him with legal action.
If you have encountered products that claim to treat, prevent, or kill the coronavirus, our lawyers would like to hear from you.
Coronavirus Securities Lawsuits
Many companies’ financial fates could be at stake due to the economic repercussions of coronavirus. But that doesn’t mean securities laws don’t still apply to them.
On March 12, a Norwegian Cruise Lines shareholder filed a securities class action lawsuit claiming the cruise ship company made false and misleading statements in SEC filings that caused its stocks to be artificially inflated. When news came out that contradicted Norwegian’s filings, the complaint alleges, company shares fell more than 26%, causing financial damage to investors.
Also, on March 12, a plaintiff shareholder of Inovio Pharmaceuticals filed a class action securities lawsuit based on CEO statements about the company’s development of a coronavirus vaccine. Inovio shares are alleged to have risen after CEO J. Joseph Kim made the vaccine claims in public and private. The complaint states that Inovio “falsely described their product as a fully completed vaccine when it was nothing of the sort,” which led to a $643 million loss of market capitalization when a statement from Citron Research disputed Inovio’s claim.
To report a possible coronavirus securities claim, get in touch with a lawyer.
Predatory Lending and Foreclosure Coronavirus Lawsuits
Social distancing measures have prompted widespread business shutdowns, skyrocketing unemployment, and workers struggling to pay their bills. President Trump recently proposed a temporary ban on foreclosures and evictions, but that proposal is not expected to cover every household.
Lawsuits may be another way for homeowners to avoid foreclosures. A West Virginia class action lawsuit seeks to halt Bank of America foreclosures across the state, given the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic. The plaintiffs allege they were the victims of a predatory lending scheme involving a loan company that Bank of America later acquired. “During this nationally declared emergency, foreclosures cannot be conducted at an appropriate time consistent with the contracts governing the foreclosures (deed of trust), the common law of West Virginia, and the statutory framework provided for non-judicial foreclosure sales,” reads the complaint.
Are you out of work because of coronavirus and facing foreclosure? Learn your legal options.
Coronavirus Negligence Lawsuits
Did cruise ships, health care facilities, businesses, and governments take all reasonable measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19? That is the question at the heart of coronavirus negligence lawsuits. Although such cases present legal complications—such as actually proving that a defendant’s failure to take precautions caused infection—defendants could be held liable if they negligently exposed people to coronavirus, resulting in personal injury or death.
- Princess Cruise Lines is accused of “gross negligence” in multiple lawsuits. Ronald and Eva Weissberger sued the cruise line for $1 million while they were still aboard a ship with at least 21 coronavirus patients, claiming that Princess continued to sail even after learning that at least one passenger from a previous voyage exhibited virus symptoms. The Weissbergers say they were traumatized from fear of infection and never would have boarded the ship had they known of the risk before embarking. Another lawsuit brought on behalf of a Missouri couple cites the company’s “lackadaisical” approach to ensuring the safety of its passengers aboard a ship quarantined off the coast of California. The couple seeks past and future medical expenses as well as punitive damages.
- The People’s Republic of China—where coronavirus originated—is the subject of five Florida residents’ lawsuits who are suing China for taking insufficient measures to stem the coronavirus outbreak. The plaintiffs claim that China didn’t properly contain the virus, underreported the number of cases, and failed to report the outbreak in a timely manner.
- Serious questions are being raised about whether a nursing home facility in Seattle where there were 63 confirmed coronavirus infections and 23 deaths took appropriate steps to protect residents, workers, and first responders.
- Commercial property owners are also concerned about the potential for lawsuits if a property user catches the virus on their site. Tenants or guests could claim that the building was unclean, overcrowded, or had sick people in it, leading to coronavirus transmission.
Were you infected or did a loved one die from coronavirus infection that could have been prevented? Find out if you have a case.
Business Interruption Insurance Coronavirus Lawsuits
Almost every state has enacted policies to close nonessential businesses and help slow the spread of COVID-19 in the United States. As a result, thousands of business owners have been forced to close their doors for the foreseeable future. Business interruption insurance can cover lost income, mortgage payments, rent, loans, taxes, payroll, and other costs at a time such as this. However, many owners who paid premiums for years are now being told their business interruption insurance doesn’t cover coronavirus.
The Coronavirus Task Force is investigating denied COVID-19 business interruption claims. If your business was ordered to close because of the virus and had its insurance claim denied, you might have a case.
Coronavirus Tuition, Room, Board, and Fee Class Action Lawsuits
In an effort to contain coronavirus spread, hundreds of colleges and universities nationwide shut down student housing and forced students to leave campus. As a result, students lost the benefits of in-person instruction, housing, meals, and student activities for which they had already paid.
While some schools are offering refunds on a pro rata basis, others are offering non-prorated refunds. For example, Purdue University charged $10,030 for room and board for the 2019-2020 academic year, but is only crediting $750 to students who vacated university housing by March 30. With respect to meal plans, Purdue offers credits for the purchase of future meals, but does not offer full reimbursement. And Purdue has no plan for tuition reimbursement, even though online classes are not commensurate with the same courses being taught in person.
On April 10, Milberg Phillips Grossman, a partner firm of the Coronavirus Task Force, filed a class action lawsuit against Purdue on behalf of students. The lawsuit seeks restitution for tuition, housing, meals, fees, and other applicable costs.
The Task Force is currently investigating other schools and will announce additional lawsuits as the outbreak unfolds.
Coronavirus Task Force
Sanders Phillips Grossman LLC (“SPG”), Milberg Phillips Grossman LLP (“Milberg”), Greg Coleman Law, PC (“Greg Coleman”), and Alejandro García Padilla have formed the Coronavirus Litigation Task Force that will investigate suspected wrongdoing related to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
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