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COVID-19-Related Class Action Lawsuits on the Rise

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Picture of the M.S. Carnival Valor, owned by Carnival Cruise Lines

As COVID-19 case numbers climb across the United States, so do the numbers of class action lawsuits for consumer fraud, misleading the public and other types of alleged wrongdoing. 

Cruise lines, airlines, insurance companies and federal and state governments are among those on the list facing legal battles stemming from the pandemic. American small businesses and health care workers have even sued China for allegedly spreading misinformation and medical supply hoarding. 

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

Some notable lawsuits hit travel industry giants Norwegian Cruise Lines, Carnival-owned Costa Cruises, Princess Cruise Lines Ltd., Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines and United Airlines. 

Cruise Lines Hid Truth About Coronavirus from Passengers

In one of the first lawsuits filed mid-March, shareholders accused Norwegian of providing a misleading positive outlook of its financial results in spite of the coronavirus outbreak. According to the lawsuit, leaked employee emails said Norwegian “asked sales staff to lie to customers about COVID-19 to protect the company’s bookings.” 

“Norwegian Cruise Lines asked sales staff to lie to customers about COVID-19 to protect the company’s bookings.”

Suggested talking points included, “The only thing you need to worry about for your cruise is do you have enough sunscreen?” And, “The Coronavirus can only survive in cold temperatures, so the Caribbean is a fantastic choice for your next cruise.”

In April, passengers sued Carnival’s Costa Cruises and Princess Cruise Lines subsidiaries. 

Paul Turner’s class action complaint filed on April 7 against Costa claims the company kept the truth about COVID-19 from passengers aboard the Costa Luminosa, and “they were dragged across the Atlantic in a ticking coronavirus time bomb.”

“Costa concealed information surrounding the coronavirus from passengers by blocking out news channels on stateroom TVs that had previously been available to passengers during the beginning of the cruise,” the complaint said.

Princess Cruise Lines was hit with a class action on April 8 filed by Robert Archer and other passengers aboard the Grand Princess. 

According to the complaint, “Defendants did not notify passengers who were scheduled to board the vessel on February 21, 2020, that passengers from the prior Mexico trip had reported COVID-19 symptoms, or of the fact that passengers remaining aboard the Grand Princess had been exposed to and might be infected with and/or carrying the virus.” 

Airlines Sued over Cancelled COVID-19 Flights, Lack of Refunds

United, Southwest and Delta face a cluster of class actions for cancelling flights and issuing travel vouchers instead of refunds. Plaintiffs claim the companies denied refunds even as airlines are set to receive a $58 billion bailout as a part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act. 

On April 6, Jacob Rudolf filed a class action against United Airlines claiming the company violated consumer protection laws by refusing to issue refunds to passengers after canceling flights. 

“Now is not the time for United to change its promises and deprive customers of a refund, even the more so as United has benefited from a generous government bailout,” Rudolph’s attorney, Steve W. Berman, told Law360. 

“Now is not the time for United to change its promises and deprive customers of a refund, even the more so as United has benefited from a generous government bailout.”

Similarly, Adrian Bombin sued Southwest on April 16. His suit says the airline failed to provide a refund after canceling his flight in spite of an enforcement notice from the U.S. Department of Transportation that said customers were entitled to a refund for cancellations because of coronavirus. 

Delta faces a class action filed by Elliot Daniels on April 17. Daniels said Delta is refusing to refund passengers’ tickets and “is misleading passengers about their rights by making it difficult to locate information about refunds.” 

These lawsuits ask for a refund of ticket prices plus attorney’s fees. 

China Faces $8 Trillion Suit and Is Accused of Hoarding Supplies

On April 9, small businesses in California filed a class action suit against the People’s Republic of China and other Chinese government entities on behalf of 32 million small businesses in the United States. 

“According to scientists almost 99 percent of the world’s infections could have been avoided if the defendants had acted properly in early December 2019,” plaintiffs said. 

According to the suit, the Chinese government “engaged in a campaign of falsehoods, misinformation, cover-up and destruction of evidence.” No evidence of this claim is provided in the complaint. 

In another suit filed on the same day in Florida, a group of medical professionals accused China of hoarding personal protection equipment (PPE) and withholding it from the United States. 

“On the front line of our nation’s response to the effects of this deadly pandemic are the nearly 4,000,000 doctors, nurses, medical technicians, paramedics, and EMTs who are faced with severe shortages of PPE,” plaintiffs said in their complaint. “These shortages can be directly traced to the actions of Defendants.”

At the time of the complaint, two of the plaintiffs had tested positive for COVID-19 and others were awaiting test results. The health care workers are seeking compensatory and other damages for class members.

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Michelle Llamas, Senior Content Writer
Written By Michelle Llamas Senior Writer

Michelle Llamas has been writing articles and producing podcasts about drugs, medical devices and the FDA for seven years. She specializes in fluoroquinolone antibiotics and products that affect women’s health such as Essure birth control, transvaginal mesh and talcum powder. Michelle collaborates with experts, including board-certified doctors, patients and advocates, to provide trusted health information to the public. Some of her qualifications include:

  • American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) Engage Committee and Membership Committee member
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Health Literacy certificates
  • Original works published or cited in The Lancet, British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and the Journal for Palliative Medicine
Edited By

17 Cited Research Articles

  1. Aharon et al. v. Chinese Communist Party et al. (2020, April 8). United States District Court Southern District Of Florida. Class Action Complaint. Case 9:20-cv-80604-RKA. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/1262297/attachments/0
  2. Archer et al. v. Carnival Corporation & PLC et al. (2020, April 8). United States District Court Northern District Of California. Class Action And Individual Complaint For Damages. Case 3:20-cv-02381-JSC. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/1261950/attachments/0
  3. Berg, L. (2020, April 6). United Airlines Sued Over Refund Policy Amid COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/1260775
  4. Berg, L. (2020, April 8). Lieff Cabraser Joins COVID-19 Cruise War With Carnival Suit. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/1261950/lieff-cabraser-joins-covid-19-cruise-war-with-carnival-suit
  5. Berg, L. (2020, April 9). Fla. Health Workers Say China Is Hoarding Protective Supplies. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/1262297/fla-health-workers-say-china-is-hoarding-protective-supplies
  6. Bombin et al. v. Southwest Airlines Co. (2020, April 13). In The United States District Court For The For The Eastern District Of Pennsylvania. Class Action Complaint. Case 5:20-cv-01883. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/1263348/attachments/0
  7. Cardiff Prestige Property, Incorporated et al. v. People’s Republic of China et al. (2020, April 8). United States District Court Central District Of California. Class Action Complaint. Case 8:20-cv-00683. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/1262084/attachments/0
  8. Clough, C. (2020, April 17). Delta Latest Airline Sued Over COVID-19 Refund Policy. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/1265131/delta-latest-airline-sued-over-covid-19-refund-policy
  9. Clough, C. (2020, April 7). Suit Faults Carnival Unit For 'Ticking Coronavirus Time Bomb.’ Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/1261468
  10. Clough, C. (2020, April 9). Calif. Small Businesses Sue China For $8T Over COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/1262084/calif-small-businesses-sue-china-for-8t-over-covid-19
  11. Daniels et al. v. Delta Air Lines, Inc. (2020, April 17). United States District Court Northern District Of Georgia Atlanta Division. Case 1:20-mi-99999-UNA. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/1265131/attachments/0
  12. Douglas et al. v. Norwegian Cruise Lines et al. (2020, March 13). United States District Court Southern District Of Florida. Class Action Complaint For Violations Of The Federal Securities Laws. Case 1:20-cv-21107-XXXX. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/1253064/attachments/0
  13. Hale, N. (2020, March 13). Norwegian Cruises Accused Of Misleading On COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/1253064/norwegian-cruises-accused-of-misleading-on-covid-19
  14. Rudolf et al. v. United Airlines Holdings, Inc. et al. (2020, April 6). United States District Court Northern District Of Illinois Eastern Division. Class Action Complaint. Case: 1:20-cv-02142. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/1260775/attachments/0
  15. Santoni, M. (2020, April 14). Southwest Sued Over Coronavirus Flight Cancellations. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/1263348/southwest-sued-over-coronavirus-flight-cancellations
  16. Turner et al. v. Costa Crociere S.P.A. et al. (2020, April 7). United States District Court Southern District Of Florida. Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial. Case 1:20-cv-21481-KMM. Retrieved from https://www.law360.com/articles/1261468/attachments/0
  17. Wolf, R. (2020, April 3). Coronavirus goes to court: After lives and livelihoods come the lawsuits. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/04/03/coronavirus-lawsuits-workers-businesses-insurers-prepare-battle/5097938002/
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