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Lawsuits piling up across US amid coronavirus pandemic


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The coronavirus pandemic is taking a toll on the US legal system as lawsuits — across various industries — are seeking damages for the crisis, according to a new report.

Suits are flooding in from workers against companies, and businesses against insurers, USA Today reported Friday. Prison inmates and migrants in detention, abortion providers and gun shop owners have sued federal and state governments, according to the report.

Colleges, most of which have switched to distance learning amid the pandemic; cruises, an early hotspot for the deadly bug; and even China, the original epicenter of the virus, have been targeted in suits, the outlet reported.

Businesses are losing millions of dollars only to learn that their insurance policies exclude pandemics, according to the report. Insurers may need to contend with massive claims that they’ll be unable to pay — prompting calls for a government bailout or September 11-style victims’ compensation fund, according to the report.

Lawsuits are also expected to pile up at the nursing homes hardest-hit by the crisis, where residents have quickly succumbed to the contagious bug, according to the report.

“You’ve got the pandemic, and then you’ve got the government response to the pandemic,” Jimi Grande, senior vice president of government affairs at the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies, told the paper. “The challenge is, how much of it needs to be litigated, and how much of it is because we have a new, massive problem facing the globe that government’s got to deal with.”

“This early litigation is really, from our vantage point, the tip of the iceberg,” added Harold Kim, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform. “The level of litigation could really go into so many different directions.”

US doctors on the frontline of the crisis are also seeking protection from malpractice suits.

State chapters of the powerful American Medical Association and other groups representing healthcare providers have pushed governors for legal cover for decisions made in emergency rooms reeling from the pandemic.

“We need protection that is temporary,” Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told Reuters. “This is not an end-around for litigation reform. This is a response to a moment in time, and we’ve even seen lawyers posting things online saying ‘have your doctors mismanaged your COVID?’ like ‘call us’, like the kind of thing you see on television at two in the morning. So we’re seeing that. This is not fantasy or fiction.”

Last week, Eugene Yang, a professor of medicine at the University of Washington, shared an image of a blog post on a malpractice law firm’s website titled, “What you should know about medical negligence during the COVID-19 crisis.” He blasted the post in a message to his healthcare colleagues.

“It is reprehensible that we have the bottom of the barrel in the legal community trying to take advantage of us when we are sacrificing our lives to protect our patients,” he wrote. “It truly disgusts me to see what badness comes out during a crisis like this.”

The website of the firm, Mannarino & Brasfield, has been taken offline and a recorded message on its answering system said the post was published by an outside contractor. The post does not reflect the firm’s values, the message said.

With Post wires

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