CCP Virus-Linked Lawsuits Double as Liability Protection Showdown Nears in Congress

July 14, 2020 Updated: July 15, 2020

New workplace class-action lawsuits linked to the CCP virus—also known as the novel coronavirus—doubled between April and June, according to a new survey, even as Congress prepares for a heated debate on providing new liability protections for health care workers and companies.

“The numbers have been rising for months, from 60 cases filed in April to 122 in June,” stated Law360, a legal industry publication, citing data from a regular survey of new litigation that has been filed.

“Proposed class actions haven’t seen the same increase, at 11 in April, 15 in May, and 14 in June,” Law360 stated. “California and Florida are the busiest states for both types of cases.”

A 2018 study by the Institute for Legal Reform (ILR) found such litigation costs the U.S. economy $429 billion annually, an average of more than $3,300 per U.S. family.

Class-action lawsuits have been a major factor in rising health care costs, because they force doctors and other providers to practice “defensive medicine” that boosts insurance premiums.

In a related development, Reuters recently reported that advertising by lawyers seeking clients with cases against drugmakers and consumer products companies rose nearly 7 percent between January and May, compared to the same period last year.

“We’ve definitely seen an aggressive uptick in COVID-related advertising pretty much from the beginning of the year till now,” ILR Senior Vice President Oriana Senatore told The Epoch Times on July 14.

“Beginning in March and through now, the COVID-related ads have spiked exponentially, so they are second only to asbestos ads in terms of impressions numbers,” she said.

Senatore said ILR’s previous studies of trial lawyer advertising in potential new litigation issues show a common pattern with the current increase in COVID ads.

“It is definitely part of their model to put a massive influx of funds in advertising on the front-end to amass as many cases as they can, to then test a variety of [litigation] theories in a variety of jurisdictions,” she said.

Trial lawyers routinely use the threat of such suits to force big corporations, doctors, and small businesses to settle malpractice and consumer “tort” liability cases out of court to avoid jury trials that often produce costly judgments for plaintiffs and enrich their opportunistic attorneys.

Class-action attorneys are among the most dependable and generous donors to Democratic candidates, committees, and causes, led by the American Association for Justice (AAJ), which was formerly known as the American Trial Lawyers Association. So far in 2020, AAJ has given more than $1.5 million to Democrats, compared to $48,000 to Republicans.

Lawyers and associated lobbyists contributed more than $145 million in political donations in 2019 and 2020, with 71 percent of the funds going to Democrats, according to opensecrets.org.

A showdown on whether to give health care workers and businesses greater protection against class-action liability suits looms in the Senate next week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said July 13: “We’re obviously out of session this week, but when my members come back next week, we’ll start socializing it with them, begin to discuss it with the Democrats and start the legislative process. I think you can anticipate this coming to a head sometime within the next three weeks, beginning next week.”

Democrats are strongly opposed to increased liability protections. When the issue was first surfaced in April by McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) scoffed, asking, “How does that make sense? … McConnell wants to make it harder for workers to show up at their jobs and to hold their employers accountable for providing safe working conditions. … Sen. McConnell is fighting to protect corporate executives.”

Lawyers and law firms are Schumer’s second-largest industry for campaign donations, according to opensecrets.org. Lawyers and law firms are McConnell’s fourth-largest industry, but his total of $680,917 between 2015 and 2020 trails Schumer’s total of $1,626,692 for the same period.

Contact Mark Tapscott at Mark.Tapscott@epochtimes.nyc