Coronavirus-related lawsuits are picking up steam. (Photo: Shutterstock) Coronavirus-related lawsuits are picking up steam. (Photo: Shutterstock)

The coronavirus outbreak has spawned lawsuits — and mass torts and class actions are no exception. Here’s a roundup of some of the lawsuits, plus how COVID-19 has impacted some pending cases:

Consumer class actions

Class actions were filed against two makers of hand sanitizers over the health claims of their products. The class actions, filed this month, follow the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Jan. 17 warning against Purell maker GoJo Industries to halt marketing claims that its product prevented Ebola or the flu. Thrasher Dinsmore & Dolan, Shapiro Haber & Urmy, and Schubert Jonckheer & Kolbe filed the Purell case, while Kazerouni Law Group brought the case against Germ-X, which has advertised that its products prevent coronavirus.

A class action filed against Bank of America seeks to halt foreclosures in West Virginia amid the coronavirus outbreak. The lawsuit comes as the state of California and several cities, states and courts, as well as some U.S. lawmakers, have moved to temporarily ban evictions and foreclosures.

Mass torts

Lawyers in a class action on behalf of opioid-addicted babies against several pharmaceutical companies sought a 60-day stay of upcoming deposition deadlines for expert witnesses due to “significant obstacles created by the COVID-19 response,” including limits on travel and personal contact, according to a stipulation filed on Friday. Expert witnesses, originally scheduled for depositions through April 8, also could be ill or involved in handling the pandemic’s response, lawyers wrote.

A West Virginia judge overseeing asbestos lawsuits issued a March 11 order encouraging settlements in light of the “fear factor connected to the coronavirus outbreak.” Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Ronald Wilson said he had not yet rescheduled trials for May or June but, he wrote, “if the ‘fear contagion’ continues to grow, then it is unlikely that jury trials will take place.” West Virginia reported its first coronavirus case on Tuesday, March 17, making COVID-19 present in all 50 states.

At least six lawsuits have been filed on behalf of passengers of the Grand Princess cruise line, which quarantined 3,500 passengers last week off the coast of California, 21 of whom tested positive for coronavirus.

Shareholder suits

Berger Montague and Block & Leviton filed a shareholder class action on March 12, 2020, against Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc. and its CEO, J. Joseph Kim, over statements made last month claiming the biotech firm had developed a COVID-19 vaccine in three hours. On March 9, a short seller revealed the statements to be false, sending Inovio shares tumbling in a single day from $18.72 to $5.70 per share.

Investors represented by The Rosen Law Firm filed a class action against Norwegian Cruise Lines after a March 11 article in the Miami New Times and a subsequent Washington Post news story revealed the company had encouraged its sales representatives to lie to passengers about potential exposure to the coronavirus. The news sent shares plummeting, according to the March 12 complaint.

This piece first appeared in Critical Mass, a weekly briefing for class action and mass tort attorneys from ALM sister site