It’s an open secret that the Covid-19 pandemic is placing enormous pressure on public services, not least of course the NHS. Another casualty (no pun intended!) is the justice system.
Here’s what Lord Burnett of Maldon, the current Lord Chief Justice, has said in a statement: “It is not realistic to suppose that it will be business as usual in any jurisdiction, but it is of vital importance that the administration of justice does not grind to a halt.”
Some courts are seeking to cope by resorting to modern technology, such as video-conferencing. The first entirely virtual commercial hearing has recently been held, for example. Extensions of time and adjournments are common, to say the least.
Whilst the backlog of court cases continues to grow, lawyers all over the country are dipping their pens in the inkwell to sue authorities, (including the government), companies and businesses.
Coronavirus is on its way to becoming “the new asbestos” for class action lawsuits.
Potential claims include, for example:
- Discrimination in support for both businesses and individuals
- Human rights violations
- Sports and sports tournaments (club relegation, promotions, price money and income)
- Cancellation of sporting events
- Abuse of power (violations of constitutional rights, regulations overruling legal rights)
- Devaluation of property and investments
In addition, albeit perhaps less obvious, many businesses, retail, offices and others, are hesitant to re-open. Why? Well, for fear of a wave of litigation from customers and suppliers who could claim to have become infected with the virus owing to inadequate safety measures and precautions.
Finally, consider insurance. There will be a whole separate epidemic of insurance claims. Insurance market Lloyd’s of London has said it expects coronavirus-related claims to cost it $3bn to $4.3bn (£2.5bn to £3.5bn). This would make it the biggest pay out since 9/11. It would also equal the combined impact of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in 2017.
At the risk of sounding cynical, lawyers may be looking forward to a field day, but at what cost to businesses, individuals, our precious justice system and society in general?
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