The Network for Public Health Law monitors key court cases and relevant judicial trends in public health. This month’s reporter, Judicial Trends in Public Health (JTPH), highlights select litigation claims related to COVID-19 from the prior month. These cases are organized below by brief heading, name, issuing court, date of issuance, abstract, and hyperlink to the full decisions or media accounts (when available). Questions, comments, thoughts? Contact the Network for more information.
Restrictions on Gatherings: Binford v. Chris Sununu (Merrimack Superior Court, New Hampshire). On March 17, 2020, a day after Governor Sununu prohibited gatherings of more than 50 individuals to prevent the spread of COVID-19, individuals in New Hampshire filed a lawsuit. Read the abstract here.
Vulnerable Prisoner Release: U.S. v. Steinger (U.S. District Court – Southern District of Florida). On March 18, 2020, Joel Steinger, a 70 year-old Florida prisoner incarcerated at the Federal Medical Center in North Carolina for mail and wire fraud conspiracy, filed a motion requesting that his sentence be reduced to time served due to “extraordinary and compelling reasons” related to COVID-19. Read the abstract here.
Disability Rights in Crisis Standards of Care: Disability Rights Washington. On March 23, 2020, disability rights advocates filed a complaint with HHS’ Office of Civil Rights (OCR) alleging the State of Washington’s plan to ration care in response to COVID-19 constitutes disability discrimination in violation of federal law. Read the abstract here.
Insurance Coverage for Closure Losses: Cajun Conti LLC v. Certain Underwriter’s at Lloyd’s, London (Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, Louisiana). On March 16, 2020, Oceana Grill, a popular restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans sued its insurer, Lloyd’s, Louisiana’s Governor, and the State, seeking a declaratory judgment affirming that the restaurant is entitled to insurance coverage for business interruption due to operating restrictions affecting restaurants due to COVID-19. Read the abstract here.
Planning for Homeless Populations: LA Alliance for Human Rights v. City of Los Angeles (U.S. District Court – Central District of California). On March 19, 2020, a district court held an emergency hearing regarding L.A.’s efforts to address homeless concerns related to COVID-19. Read the abstract here.
Product False Claims: Miller v. GOJO Industries (U.S. District Court – Northern District of Ohio, Eastern Division). A class action lawsuit filed in federal court on March 13, 2020 alleges that GOJO Industries, the maker of Purell hand sanitizer, misled the public by claiming it can “prevent 99.9 percent of illness-causing germs.” Read the abstract here.
Paid Sick and Safe Time: Roger v. Lyft & Verhines v. Uber (Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco). On March 11, 2020, Uber and Lyft drivers filed a class action lawsuit alleging the companies violated state law with respect to paid sick leave in response to COVID-19. Read the abstract here.
Prison Populations: Parsons v. Shins (U.S. District Court – Arizona): On March 16, 2020, in an ongoing class action suit against the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC), an emergency motion was filed asking the court to order ADC to engage in efforts to protect prison populations from COVID-19. Read the abstract here.
At-Risk Prisoner Release: Sumba v. Decker (U.S. District Court – Southern District of New York). On March 20, 2020, the Legal Aid Society and The Bronx Defenders sued U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in federal court seeking the immediate release of seven individuals in civil immigrant detention. Read the abstract here.
Cruise Line Liability: Dalton v. Princess Cruise Line, Ltd. (U.S. District Court – Central District of California). On March 13, 2020, two former passengers brought a negligence action against Princess Cruise Line, claiming it should have taken greater precautions to keep its passengers safe from COVID-19. Read the abstract here.
JTPH is a collaboration of the Network’s Western and Eastern Region Offices edited by April Shaw, JD, PhD, Staff Attorney, at the Western Region Office. Additional contributors include: James G. Hodge, Jr., JD, LLM, Kathi Hoke, JD, Leila Barraza, JD, MPH, Kerri McGowan Lowrey, JD, MPH, Mathew R. Swinburne, JD, Megan Griest, MPP, Michelle Notrica, Pharm.D., J.D., MPH, Claudia Reeves, and Jonathan Charlton.