For the week of April 27, 2020
Written by Keely Cameron, Tim Heneghan and Cheryl Woodin
While some provincial and state governments roll out their plans for phased re-openings of their economies, the COVID-class action landscape continues to evolve. This past week saw a torrent of class actions tackling everything from outbreaks in long-term care homes and shelters, to ticket and pass-holder refunds, to an action against the WHO, to new allegations of price-gouging in a purported conspiracy to capitalize on the surging demand for eggs. The consolidation of business interruption claims against insurers is also now beginning.
Negligence and Breach of Contract Actions
- In Ontario, a class action has been filed against the Responsive Group, operators of several long-term care facilities in Ontario. The lead plaintiff is the son of a resident who tested positive for COVID-19 and shortly afterward passed away. The claim focuses on protocols at three of the facilities operated by the Responsive Group, and includes allegations that the defendant failed to follow COVID-19 public health advice.
- Also in Ontario, a collection of public interest groups including the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario and the Black Legal Action Centre have filed a class action against the City of Toronto alleging that the City failed to take adequate steps to ensure compliance with social distancing rules within its homeless shelters. The plaintiffs also argue that the City has been too slow in implementing its plan to move members of Toronto's homeless community into vacant hotel rooms.
- In Florida, a class action has been filed against Air Canada for the Canadian airline's refusal to pay monetary refunds after cancelling flights amid the pandemic. Similar claims have been filed against U.S. and other Canadian airlines in other states and in Canada, as detailed in our previous posts.
- In Delaware, a class action has been filed against Live Nation—parent company of Ticketmaster—on behalf of all consumers who bought tickets for events that have been “indefinitely postponed” because of COVID-19. The claim alleges that these postponements are simply a way to circumvent the obligations Live Nation would owe to ticketholders if these events were cancelled.
- In California, a class action has been filed against Major League Baseball and all 30 of its teams. The claim, which has received extensive media coverage, alleges that baseball fans have been “held in limbo” as a result of an MLB directive not to issue refunds. The plaintiff seeks a full refund for all tickets bought for the 2020 baseball season, and an injunction prohibiting the league and its teams from selling any additional tickets.
- Also in California, a class action has been filed against the Vail Corporation, owner of several ski resorts in North America, including in Whistler, British Columbia. The plaintiff brings the action on behalf of annual pass and Epic Day Pass holders for the defendant's decision not to provide a refund as a result of the inability of the holders to continue to use their passes consequent upon the COVID-19 pandemic.
- In New York, a class action has been filed against the World Health Organization alleging negligence. The claim asserts that the World Health Organization conspired with the Chinese government to mislead the international community about COVID-19 and failed to provide a timely report to its member nations about the severity of the virus. Among the plaintiffs is a doctor based in New Rochelle, NY, which was one of the first “hotspots” for the virus in the United States.
- In Québec, inmates have filed a class action against Correctional Services Canada. The claim alleges that inadequate measures were implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19 within the Joliette Institution and seeks $100 a day for each member-plaintiff beginning from March 13 until the “return to normality”. The plaintiffs also seek additional damages for class members that tested positive for COVID-19.
- In California, a class action has been launched against several producers, wholesalers and retailers—including Amazon, Costco and Wal-Mart—alleging price-gouging of essential groceries. The claim was brought on behalf of California-based consumers who bought eggs after the state of emergency was declared on March 4, 2020. Relying in part on the nearly three-fold increase in the average price of eggs in California, the plaintiff alleges that at least some of the defendants must have engaged in a “secretive process of price-setting” in the hopes of unfairly profiting on the increased demand for eggs.
Actions Relating to Government Relief Programs
- In Illinois, a popcorn manufacturer has filed a class action on behalf of Chase Business Banking account holders against Chase Bank and Ruth's Chris Steak House, a multinational restaurant chain. The claim alleges that Chase Bank illegally distributed emergency government loans intended to aid small businesses under the federal CARES Act to certain clients that were not “small businesses,” including Ruth's Chris Steak House. In response to the public outcry that precipitated this claim, Ruth's Chris Steak House has returned the US$20-million loan it received under the CARES Act.
- In Pennsylvania, a medical centre has filed a class action against Travelers Insurance after the insurer refused to compensate for losses sustained by the centre as a result of COVID-19. The plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief from the insurer, claiming that the loss of income it has suffered is not an excluded loss under the “All Risks” insurance policy it bought from Travelers.
- Suits filed in the United States over the issue of whether business interruption insurance policies will cover losses incurred as a result of the pandemic already number in the double digits. A motion was filed on April 20 before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation seeking an order consolidating at least 11 actions and transferring them to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia). The plaintiff lawyers who brought the motion characterize the issue as one of “national importance and great significance to the ultimate survival of many businesses”.
Bennett Jones is committed to protecting the rights of its clients during these unprecedented times. If you have any questions about the information in this article, please contact a member of the Bennett Jones Class Action Litigation group. In addition, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Centre for other COVID-19-related materials.
More in this Series
- COVID-19 Class Actions Weekly Round-Up - For the week of June 1
- COVID-19 Class Actions Weekly Round-Up - For the week of May 25
- COVID-19 Class Actions Weekly Round-Up - For the week of May 18
- COVID-19 Class Actions Weekly Round-Up - For the week of May 11
- COVID-19 Class Actions Weekly Round-Up - For the week of May 4
- COVID-19 Class Actions Weekly Round-Up - For the week of April 20
- COVID-19 Class Actions Weekly Round-Up - For the week of April 13
- COVID-19 Class Actions Weekly Round-Up - For the week of April 6
- COVID-19 Class Actions Weekly Round-Up - For the week of March 30