Dozens of class actions lawsuits are being filed in the United States as thousands lose their jobs over COVID-19 with lawyers saying "this is only the beginning".
Cases were divided into three types; shareholder classes alleging companies deceived investors in respect to their epidemic readiness, consumer claims relating to refunds and employment claims.
The most cases were being filed in California followed by Florida and New York.
Kent Schmidt, partner at law firm Dorsey and Whitney in California, said: “The class action lawsuits relating to the COVID-19 are being filed at a fast clip. It is apparent that shareholder, consumer and employment class action lawyers, while working remotely and uploading their new complaints to courthouse portals, are keeping busy in the middle of this crisis".
Regarding employment claims, the six issues were claims about:
- Wage and hours issues related to remote working;
- Employee health and safety;
- 401k and pension plans;
- Medical privacy claims; and
- The disparate impact of furloughs.
Looking at shareholder claims, companies needed to be careful in how they were communicating with customers and analysts and not make overly optimistic claims.
“Both public and private companies should be mindful of how their public response to the crisis and the impact it will have on their business comports with reality. What are you saying in press releases, communications to customers and industry analysts, versus what is actually happening? Shareholder plaintiffs focus on the stark contrast, which never looks good in the litigation," Schmidt said.
“Public companies can step into the shareholder class action quagmire by making overly optimistic projections as to how they are weathering the storm. While some of these statements may fall within the safe harbor of forward-looking statements, there are risks that liability will attach to other statements.”