More than 2,800 putative class action lawsuits have been filed in the United States related in some way to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to our research of publicly available records. The most common complaints are consumer claims for reimbursement of tuition, services, or experiences; by employees against employers related to workplace safety; and by insureds against carriers related to alleged business interruption claims. As the COVID-19 heatmap below shows, New York and California have seen the most class action lawsuits filed of any state.
Context and methodology
Each year, Carlton Fields publishes a survey of more than 400 in-house attorneys, each of whom is responsible for handling class actions in their company or institution, covering more than 25 industries. The data collected in our annual report Carlton Fields Class Action Investigation provides an overview of the ways leading corporate legal departments identify, measure and manage class action risk.
Additionally, given the interest in class action lawsuits related to COVID-19 and the impact of the pandemic across industries, our recent surveys have also examined class action lawsuits related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the launch of our 2022 Class Actions Survey Two months ago, the feedback was great. We have therefore decided to dig deeper into the landscape of class actions related to COVID-19. The results below present our breakdown and analysis of COVID-19 class action lawsuits filed in the United States from the onset of the pandemic in the spring of 2020 through mid-February 2022, for businesses of all sizes and all sectors, based on publicly available electronic data. state and federal court records.
Results and analysis
In total, we have located 2,875 putative class action lawsuits filed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Forget a wave of class action lawsuits – it was a flood.
The COVID-19 class action heatmap below summarizes this work:
Filing frequency by state tended to follow population. New York topped the list with 846 total filings, followed closely by California with 722. Pennsylvania, Florida and Illinois each had more than 100 filings.
From our work to compile the map, several other interesting findings also emerged.
The most common request was for refunds related to experiences or changed circumstances arising from the pandemic, totaling about 21% of cases filed. Of this number, about 14% were tuition claims in the education sector. The remaining 7% related to entertainment, ticket and travel refunds and other missed opportunities and events. This category generally declined after the first year of the pandemic.
After reimbursement claims, the second most common category of COVID-19 class actions include employee claims against employers, with about 18% of all cases filed. These have taken many forms, ranging from claims of unsafe working conditions due to insufficient safeguards to prevent the spread of the virus, on the one hand, to claims related to mandatory mask-wearing or vaccination policies, on the other. go. We expect these to continue. More than half of the 515 alleged class action lawsuits filed on these issues were filed in California (289), with New York being the second most common state with 61 employment-related filings.
The second most common category involved putative class action lawsuits against insurance companies related to alleged business interruption claims, with those 401 cases representing 14% of all putative COVID-19 class action lawsuits we identified. There are likely more such cases than we’ve captured here, as many are filed in state courts where electronic docket reports aren’t readily available. These cases have garnered considerable attention, with potentially high stakes. Since insurers have overwhelmingly prevailed in these cases, we expect this number to decline as a percentage of new class action lawsuits filed. Currently, Illinois and Pennsylvania lead all states with 61 and 58 cases each, respectively. The insurance industry has also faced approximately 43 alleged class action lawsuits alleging wrongful denial of claims under travel insurance policies.
There were 165 putative class action lawsuits directly related to the government’s action, such as allegations of government “grabs” without adequate compensation, restrictions on imports from China, and claims filed by federal workers.
Representing about 5% of cases, 148 securities class action lawsuits have been filed since the start of the pandemic related to COVID-19 disclosures, alleging a drop in the price of shares of public companies. As one would expect for claims of this type, New York and California were the top locations, with 61 and 45 filings, respectively.
Below we show the concentrations by some types of cases:
The “other” category includes a variety of consumer complaints, such as cruise line negligence (18), general breach of contract (20), privacy claims (61), security of premises (33) , product labeling (30) and more. .
A few other findings from our review are worth noting:
- 62 COVID-19 class actions against airlines, including 14 filed in New York alone.
- 22 putative class action lawsuits alleging price gouging related to COVID-19.
- 55 class action lawsuits filed by prisoners or detainees related to COVID-19 conditions in facilities.
When read in conjunction with the survey, we hope this heatmap and analysis will provide in-house counsel and class action litigators with an idea of where plaintiffs’ attorneys are filing these cases and some of the topics of these disputes. If you have any questions or to discuss these results in more detail, please contact the authors of this article.