COVID-19-Related Litigation: A Snapshot

At a recent webinar hosted by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA), Cary Silverman, a partner at the law firm of Shook, Hardy & Bacon, presented a breakdown of COVID-19-related litigation drawn from his firm’s research.

The charts below are based on 4,283 complaints that – while not comprehensive – provide a useful snapshot of the types of litigation and their relative frequency. They were updated on November 8.

Contract-related cases accounted for 1,255 suits and the largest percentage. Not far behind are insurance cases – mainly involving business interruption – at 1,054 and employment cases at 910.  Employment cases, Silverman said, allege wrongful termination or  failure to pay employees properly during the pandemic.

Taken together, the three broad categories – contract, insurance, and employment – account for more than 75 percent of COVID-related litigation to date.

Among contract cases, the largest share is in the Miscellaneous category (278 cases), which Silverman said are general contractual disputes where performance was affected by the pandemic. The second-largest group (262) consisted of lawsuits against schools (primarily higher education), seeking refunds of tuition and fees. Next come litigation involving leases (225) and event, ticket, or other refunds (224).

Cases involving actual exposure to the coronavirus come in relatively low, at 343 (8 percent), a fact that Silverman attributes to the economic lockdown.

“As more businesses reopen, exposure cases are likely to increase,” he said.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, nearly half of those cases (164) have involved nursing homes. Cruise ship passengers account for 64 exposure claims, and suits related to exposure risk have totaled 58. At least 44 cases to date have involved employee injury or death.