A question that is swirling around the internet right now is whether or not anyone will get sued due to coronavirus. People are wondering if there will be lawsuits against the US government, foreign governments or places of business that decided to stay open after all the dust settles from this pandemic.
Suits Against China
Well, rather unexpectedly, some coronavirus lawsuits have already been filed against a government, albeit in what will likely be a ceremonial act.
On April 21, Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt filed suit in the Eastern District of Missouri against China for essentially failing to protect the world against the disease COVID-19. In particular, he states that Chinese government lied about the illness,failed to stop its spread, silenced whistleblowers, and even hoarded protective medical gear. He must not have actually studied his law books. If you want to get your name out there, what better way to do it than to be the first person to file a lawsuit against the Chinese government for a sensational claim with no material evidence to support it?
Even if, for some miraculous reason, the suit prevails and he garners a judgment against China for coronavirus or COVID-19 related deaths, there is no mechanism in place to enforce any payment from the Chinese government. There is a legal doctrine called “Sovereign Immunity.” It says that a sovereign nation has immunity, meaning it generally cannot be touched legally by a citizen in a lawsuit. It is therefore immune from the powers of the courts of other nations. The only way to enforce international law between countries is through an international treaty and even then, those are rather ceremonial if the country chooses not to follow it.
Putting aside the absurdity of trying to get a judgment against any one person, place, or thing for the spread of COVID-19, going after one of the most powerful nations in the world is nothing more than a sensational act and not one based in legal reasoning. Schmitt likely just wanted to be in the headlines.
People are angry and want someone or something to blame. While you are not likely to win a judgment against China or the United States for failing to be prepared to handle the pandemic fallout, there are possibly going to be many COVID-19 lawsuits against businesses for putting workers in harm’s way without protective gear.
Think of the many, many, many hospital workers, doctors and nurses who were pleading for proper gear so they could treat patients when this outbreak began. They were asked to reuse gloves and masks and make masks at home. These essential workers were compelled to work in unsafe conditions, so OSHA (occupational safety) laws may apply and wreak havoc on these hospitals.
Think about the protective gear required by OSHA at a construction site. Now, think about hospital workers not being provided protective gear from their hospital employer, and thus, falling ill and dying in some circumstances. It is not a far legal stretch, and is one that is rightly justified. What jury is going to side with a hospital on that one? Likely, not many.
If you are or know a hospital worker, doctor or nurse who fell ill and could not recover or had permanent damage due to coronavirus, he or she may be entitled to a real claim against that hospital. While it is way too early to tell what will happen, anything is possible, and hospital workers deserve justice too. Perhaps something good will come out of all this and we will be better prepared the next time this happens. Hopefully, that won’t be for a very long time, though.
If you or someone you know can relate to this situation at all, contact a personal injury attorney today.