As we all know, the world has been dominated by COVID-19 for the last several weeks and tens of thousands of people have already been infected with the virus in the United States. We have seen drastic changes in the economy and our daily lives. We have also seen the first wave of class action lawsuits filed against businesses in connection with COVID-19.  Plaintiffs are alleging that businesses misrepresented their products and services with respect to protecting individuals from illness and that businesses negligently exposed individuals to COVID-19. The following are just a few of such class actions that were recently filed.

  1. Purell and Germ-X Face Class Action Over Misleading Claims About Hand Sanitizer
  • Plaintiffs claim that GOJO, the maker of Purell, misled consumers by claiming that its hand sanitizer will kill “99.9% of germs” in an attempt to profiteer off of the COVID-19 crisis and the unprecedented demand for hand sanitizer.
  • Similarly, plaintiffs claim that Germ-X profited from false claims that its hand sanitizer can help people reduce their likelihood of being infected with viruses like the flu and COVID-19, without supporting evidence.
  • It is anticipated that numerous cleaning service companies and cleaning product manufacturers may face similar claims from individuals allegedly inflicted with COVID-19.
  • Thus, companies like maid services, cleaning companies, and cleaning product manufacturers should watch closely, as they could face similar claims down the road from individuals inflicted with COVID-19.
  1. Inovio Pharmaceuticals Sued Over CEO’s False COVID-19 Vaccine Claims
  • Plaintiffs claim that the company misled investors and the public about the development and timing of a coronavirus vaccine.
  • Inovio’s stock “artificially” rose considerably after its CEO went on Fox News and told viewers about the company’s development of a coronavirus vaccine.
  • The value of Inovio’s stock quadrupled and the company decided on March 9, 2020 to sell $50 million of its stock on the open market.
  1. Passengers Sue Princess Cruises Over COVID-19 Exposure
  • On March 9, 2020, the first class action lawsuit in the United States related to COVID-19 was filed against Princess Cruises in the United States District Court for the Central District of California.
  • Plaintiffs claim that Princess Cruises negligently exposed thousands of passengers to COVID-19 despite being aware of the risk posed by the virus.
  • There are a number of defenses available to such claims. For example, defendants facing misrepresentation claims will argue that no false statements were made about the effectiveness of their products; and defendants facing exposure claims will argue that plaintiffs cannot demonstrate that they were in fact exposed to the virus at its facilities, stores, or properties, and that defendants took reasonable steps to protect their customers.  Additionally, defendants will argue that plaintiffs cannot satisfy the requirements to maintain a class action.

We anticipate that we will see scores of similar lawsuits in the coming weeks and months. Thus, businesses and employers should consult with experienced legal counsel to take appropriate steps in the interim to guard against such claims in the future.