Applications of video-conferencing or online shopping are not the only one to know an upturn in the favor of the new coronavirus: in the United States, the pandemic has also made the flower… in legal actions.
Over 1,300 complaints related to the COVID-19 have already been filed in the courts of the country, according to the law firm of Hunton Andrews Kurth, which lists each day.
The pandemic, “has divided America and generated extensive political issues”, stressed to AFP the professor of Health law Lawrence Gostin: “there are conflicts between public health and the freedoms to work, to manifest, to buy a weapon…”
And as “we are a very litigious”, he continues, these conflicts lead naturally in front of the judges.
A “first wave” of litigation is coming to prisons and detention centres, details of Torsten Kracht, partner of the law firm Hunton Andrews Kurth: detainees have called for a conditional discharge, arguing that the poor sanitary conditions in their facility or their own health problems.
Some, like the former campaign manager for Donald Trump, Paul Manafort, or his former attorney, Michael Cohen, won the case.
Others are embedded in the struggles of epic: the government has asked the supreme Court of the United States to prevent the release of over 800 prisoners from the federal prison in Elkton, ordered by a judge after the death of nine people.
In the same vein, several employees have lodged a complaint against their employer to force them to better protect them. A trade union of nursing new york has referred the matter to the justice to get masks, gloves and other protective equipment.
And if the measures have not been taken in time, relatives of victims continue to “neglect”, here an employer (the supermarket, Walmart or the slaughterhouses JBS in particular), then a retirement home.
These complaints have given rise to a lifting of shields legislative: several States have begun to introduce laws to protect the health structures and the republicans would like to do the same in Congress to put companies at the shelter.
“The pandemic of Covid-19 will certainly have an effect on the legal relations to the future,” said Torsten Kracht. Beyond these legislative changes, “I think we will see the force majeure clause of the civil contracts include clearly the risk of epidemic”, he said.
As this was not the case up here, the second major category of litigation is financial in nature.
Clients who were not able to attend a show, have launched a collective action to obtain a refund from the booking site online Ticketmaster. Others struggle to recover the costs of hotel, flight, subscription to a gym…
Since the beginning of may, the requests of students who want to be reimbursed for their enormous tuition fees are increasing. And retailers, are forced to stay behind closed doors, it was referred to the justice to challenge the containment measures imposed by the authorities.
Years of battles
The political hijacking of this debate thorny : many elected republicans, following the footsteps of a Donald Trump keen to quickly restart the country, have challenged the orders of containment taken by the governing democrats of their State.
And, for the moment, the response of the courts is cacophonous: the supreme Court of Wisconsin has ruled illegal the extension of the order of confinement by the authorities of the State, but judges have validated a similar measure taken by the governor of Michigan.
The judges were also divided on other subjects extremely clivants in the United States: the right of churches to keep religious offices and clinics to perform abortions.
With the progressive reopening of the country, a part of these proceedings should be declared null and void.
But the courts have not finished so far with the COVID-19. “We will continue to see complaints throughout the duration of the pandemic and probably beyond, especially in the commercial field where the companies have not yet identified all of their losses,” says Torsten Kracht.
And, for him, this omen of battles long over. “We’re going to see the affairs related to the COVID-19 in the courts for years,” he predicts.