ST. LOUIS — Jim Onder, whose Onder Law Firm has represented plaintiffs in class-action lawsuits over Johnson & Johnson's talcum powder and Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller, said he expects two primary types of lawsuits to come out of the pandemic and shutdown.
The first is COVID-19-related personal injury and wrongful death cases. "The Missouri Legislature is about to pass an immunity law to protect anyone who gives you COVID," Onder said. "I don't have any problem with that for medical professionals. The problem I have is immunity for nursing homes."
Onder said a federal law passed in 2016 specifically requires nursing homes to follow infection control procedures to avoid the risk of a pandemic. "Many deserve immunity, but not nursing homes," he said.
The second type of suit will be over business interruption insurance. "Most policies are what are called ISO policies that contain an exclusion for viruses. Seventy-five to 80% of policies have no coverage for business interruption due to a virus," Onder said. "However, some insurance carriers do not adopt the ISO standard. You have to look at each policy."
Class-action lawsuits, which Onder has used extensively in talc and Roundup cases, are not a likely avenue for business interruption. "I think they will have to be individual lawsuits," he said. "I don't think class action is an appropriate remedy."
There is a third possibility for lawsuits, though it's a longer shot, Onder said: the potential for an action against China. "People pooh-pooh the idea, saying 'How do you collect?'" Onder said. "Well, the U.S. government owes trillions of dollars to China, and if you get a judgment, you could attach that money rather than pay it to China. You can collect it. The problem is proving China is legally responsible."
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