The Lawsuits to Come

We have seen a lot of bad things during this pandemic. Doctors have had their salaries cut while being pushed onto the frontlines without the proper PPE. I truly expected lawsuits to come out of this and then I saw this article in the WSJ:

Stopping a Lawsuit Epidemic: Plaintiff lawyers are massing to loot medical providers and employers in response to the coronavirus.

Millions of Americans will lose their jobs and tens of thousands will die from Covid-19. Leave it to the plaintiff bar to make money off the misery. 

“The WHO is telling health care facilities to take all necessary steps in dealing with patients to detect, isolate and limit the spread of Coronavirus,” says the law firm Cogan & Power, P.C. Advises personal injury attorney Steven Heisler: “If you or a family member has become seriously ill or someone has died from coronavirus due to someone else’s negligence or fault, you should seek legal advice to see if you have a coronavirus malpractice lawsuit.” Says Brown, Moore & Associates PLCC: “If your loved one was in a nursing home and died due to Covid-19 issues (due to the virus or staffing problems at the facility), seek legal assistance immediately.” The Lockdowns Slowly Start to Lift00:00 / 20:36SUBSCRIBE

Most businesses are advertising less, but trial lawyers are taking advantage of America’s home confinement to recruit clients on TV. Consumer Attorney Marketing Group notes that “media consumption in the U.S. is already at historical highs” and “staying put in our homes can lead to almost a 60% increase in the amount of content we watch in some cases.” Legal finance firms are also capitalizing by lending money for virus lawsuits on condition they receive a dividend from the eventual payout. 

Most health-care providers have malpractice insurance, and insurers are directing them to establish explicit treatment protocols as a prophylactic. But it’s unclear whether insurers will cover some coronavirus legal claims. Hospitals were inundated with lawsuits after Hurricane Katrina, so now most are prepared for natural disasters. 

But a pandemic like the coronavirus hasn’t occurred in a century. Hospitals and workers are managing a surge of patients that nobody could have predicted. They aren’t responsible for a lack of protective equipment. Health-care providers have to make treatment decisions against a disease we still know too little about, and they shouldn’t be sued unless they are grossly negligent.

Congress last month provided liability protection for health-care volunteers but should extend them to all providers. Credit Democratic governors, including New York’s Andrew Cuomo, Illinois’s J.B. Pritzker and Michigan’s Gretchen Whitmer, for using emergency executive powers to protect providers in their states from trial lawyers. Other governors should do the same.

Those actions by Democrats are also an opening for Republicans to press liability reform in Congress. Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse has introduced legislation shielding health-care workers for testing or treating coronavirus patients. Congress last month legislated liability protection for N95 mask manufacturers that feared lawsuits if health-care workers wearing masks got sick. Liability concerns discouraged manufacturers who don’t usually make masks from assisting against the coronavirus. 

It will get worse. Plaintiff firms are also targeting employers if they reopen for business and workers or customers get sick. Cruise companies have been sued for negligence, and the American Federation of Government Employees has filed a class action against the federal government for not providing enough protective equipment in prisons and veterans hospitals.

All of this will hamper the recovery. The virus can spread easily among workers in confined spaces, and infections have forced some meatpacking plants and food facilities to close. Most employers are adopting practices recommended by public health including keeping workers at least six feet apart and are regularly sanitizing their facilities. States need to grant them legal protection if they do.

Employers are also worried about wage-and-hour lawsuits by workers who may claim they weren’t allowed to take rest breaks or weren’t paid overtime while working remotely. Small businesses also say new federal paid sick and family leave mandates could leave them vulnerable to worker lawsuits.

If Congress wants America to recover with any speed from this pandemic recession, we can’t have a lawsuit epidemic too. Employers operating in good faith need a safe harbor.

Wow, this is going to bad. I do not want to excuse any bad players from this but I have been around the block for many years. All these class action lawsuits never really help the little guy much. And those are the ones who were screwed over the in the first place.

What do you think?

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Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  10 comments for “The Lawsuits to Come

  1. Mamadoc
    May 2, 2020 at 9:12 pm

    No kidding. These guys are going to be super busy. Especially in the nursing home world.

  2. arf
    April 27, 2020 at 9:37 pm

    I predict this crisis will end November 4, as in……the day after the election.

    I will further predict, there will likely be a rebound of cases later in 2020.

    After November 4, the politicians will not give a damn who dies.

    After all, the next election will be two years away.

  3. Pat
    April 27, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Before we dump on the lawyers (and oh do they deserve it)…

    Just remember all the feel-good stories about clapping out of windows, military flyovers, and unending expressions about how much we all “love our health care workers on the frontlines.” The media and the man in the street keep calling doctors and nurses “heroes.”

    My ass. Watch how quickly we return to being even bigger scapegoats for even bigger problems that we didn’t cause.

    In all of the well-earned (!) contempt aimed here at the plaintiff’s attorneys, We should remember that they are ultimately loaded weapons waiting to be picked up, aimed, and fired. Many patients and families, when the outcome is bad or the paycheck dries up, or out of our old friends envy, greed, and vengeance, will turn on us in a second. They may need us, but their affections are often phony, and generally circumstantial.

  4. rick
    April 27, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    You assume that most plaintiffs’ lawyers are honest.

  5. Bridget Reidy
    April 27, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    I’m no fan of profiteering off a pandemic of any kind. That being said someone has to hold those who didn’t prepare responsible, because it’s simply not true that there was a “surge of patients that nobody could have predicted”. And if they remained irresponsible because it saved them money, then the penalty has to be loss of money.

    Why did the global supply of masks get bought up in January? Why did the stock market crash after news from Italy’s ICUs, and if I remember correctly was going down even before? Because the people with money did predict this. They listened to the epidemiologists because they know expert advise is worthwhile. Those of us who were late are like the patients experiencing inevitable outcomes of chronic disease despite years of our warnings and explanations of the things they can do to prevent them. Fine if they didn’t want to try to prevent, but they can’t claim “unpredictability”.

    I do count myself among them; I should have ordered more masks in January. But there are people who don’t see patients all the time whose job it actually is to plan ahead, and politicians who defunded some of them and were too slow to take their advice even as disaster was clearly coming. We must not allow them to claim “unpredictability”.

    Negligent homicide is the appropriate term for lack of effort to stock PPE, or for scientists to write recommendations based on supply instead of science. I may run out of masks out of shortsightedness, but I’m not then going to expect my assistant to come to work.

    That congressman who made money on the stock market because he believed a disaster was coming was not guilty of insider trading. Everyone had access to that information. He was guilty of lying to protect his political career, claiming he didn’t believe it was coming.

  6. Rick
    April 27, 2020 at 10:30 am

    You know, just seeing the pictures of two of the arrogant pricks, I want to dive through my screen and beat the hell out of both of them. Slip and fall lawyers are the worst elements of our culture. I loathe them.

    And yes, I realized a while ago that armies of lawyers were forming up for the attack. Sick.

  7. DrWally
    April 27, 2020 at 10:21 am

    Saw this coming almost from the start. The deepest pockets will be attacked first. Class action lawsuits will be everywhere.

  8. PW
    April 27, 2020 at 10:05 am

    States should pass laws banning lawsuits from this pandemic. If they don’t and these lawsuits progress, the already severely damaged economy will collapse. F*^&%ing lawyers.

  9. Benjamin Van Raalte
    April 27, 2020 at 9:47 am

    Where are all the so-called progressives who point to other countries healthcare systems and safety nets. Those same countries do not have an active plaintiff’s bar, do not have billionaire attorneys, and do not have a plaintiff malpractice system. They simply have a disability system like our current social security disability. Why are they not clamoring that we emulate these other countries. when we have a legal system that cost 10 times as much as most other countries is it any wonder that our health care system is two times as much, maybe it’s a miracle we’re only two times as much with a legal system that costs 10 times as much. This was an act of God, but attorneys can’t sue God. and the overwhelming majority of money goes for expenses and their percentage and will greatly hamper any recovery. Furthermore and most importantly all that brain power and all that effort will be directed towards events that happen in the past instead of making things better for the future. Even the city of New York passed on spending $150 million on ventilators because it had to fund 1 billion for a class action lawsuit. Nursing homes will become unaffordably expensive if they have to guarantee that a person that is at the end-stage of life won’t die. The standard of care that they want the nursing homes to be at is literally a hospital level which would cost $1,000 a day..

  10. Dabe
    April 27, 2020 at 8:53 am

    My colleagues were talking over an month ago and predicted this! No one who actually takes care of patients is surprised by this!

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