Silverman Warns COVID Lawsuits Will Test State Liability Shield Laws and Executive Orders

Legal Newsline, a publication that follows cases and actions that could negatively impact business, interviewed Public Policy Partner Cary Silverman about the future of COVID lawsuits. Silverman, who is an authority in product liability and tort law, and civil justice reform, told the publication it could be years before we know the effectiveness of laws approved in 15 states and 23 executive orders which protect health care providers and businesses from rising COVID lawsuits.

“The lawsuits have started but the bulk of them will likely come in another two years or so, near the end of the three-year statute of limitations,” Silverman told Legal Newsline. “It will then be another year or two before we see how they are resolved.”

The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) has developed a list of state and federal laws to help businesses navigate COVID lawsuits. The laws contain provisions to raise the standard of liability from bare negligence to gross negligence or recklessness.

“The higher standard is warranted because protecting against COVID exposure is not the same as guarding against someone slipping and falling in a store, for example, where what is expected is long understood,” Silverman said. “With COVID, what we know about the virus and its transmission, and the measures that should be taken to guard against it is continually evolving and changing. What is considered operating responsibly three weeks ago might not be viewed as taking sufficient measures today. Businesses are concerned that they will be subject to liability for exposures based on 20-20 hindsight.”