With Complaints Rapidly Increasing across the U.S., Now is the time to act
As of May 26, 2020, 2,278 complaints have been filed nationwide over the global pandemic COVID-19 according to the COVID-19 Complaint Tracker developed by lawyers at Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP. While the largest amount of these complaints deal with prison conditions and civil rights , the next highest areas of litigation involve insurance disputes, consumer disputes, labor and employment issues and contract disputes. Claims regarding employment, contracts and force majeure provisions, or clauses contained in contracts which excuse performance due to natural destructive acts also known as “acts of God,” are on the rise. These complaints will continue to be filed as the effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt in ever-changing ways. Many of these complaints have been filed in jurisdictions where KHF regularly practices—namely COVID-19 hot spots New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Although the COVID-19 Complaint tracker does not capture all of the COVID-19 related cases filed, it does provide insight into how this disruptive and deadly virus has negatively impacted business and individuals across the United States. Further, these metrics only represent disputes that have escalated to the point of initiating litigation, a costly and potentially prolonged endeavor. Many disputes are not captured in the above data either because a wronged party has not retained representation to advocate for their grievance, talks between opposing parties are ongoing, or settlements have been reached. Determining your best course of action can be critical.
Filing a complaint is one of the many tools skilled litigators have in their arsenal to obtain favorable outcomes for their clients. But before filing a complaint one needs to be clear on what terms govern your agreement, the responsibilities of all parties involved, how actions taken by either party may result in a breach to the agreement, and what protections from disruption are afforded to you under the terms of your agreement, your municipality, state or, or under federal statute. By consulting a lawyer to analyze your situation promptly, you may be able to avoid costly litigation related to any disruptions in service you experience or provide as a result of COVID-19. Kang Haggerty & Fetbroyt LLC has, for instance, successfully utilized force majeure clauses to excuse nonperformance under contracts, which enabled clients facing millions of dollars in liabilities to walk away from disrupted contracts with no penalty fees assessed or for significantly less than they were facing in settlements. As the metrics make clear, COVID-19 is fertile ground for disputes among individuals and businesses that continue to grow each day as our nation attempts to achieve a new normal.
Please consult our KHF COVID-19 Resources: Preparing for Post COVID-19 Litigation page for additional information on specific practice areas and issues to consider, along with helpful tips and advice on preparing for reopening in a COVID-19 world, reducing liability and the likelihood of being sued successfully.
Tianna K. Kalogerakis is an associate at Kang Haggerty & Fetbroyt, where she concentrates her practice on commercial litigation and business disputes. Tianna is the immediate past president of Barristers’ Association of Philadelphia.