The rise of class conflict in the era of COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic swelled in 2020, class actions have risen alongside. One report explores the overall trend across Canada and within Québec in particular

The rise of class conflict in the era of COVID-19

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There has been no shortage of ink spilt over the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic. And while the virus continues to cause waves among humanity, the economy, education, and healthcare it seems as though the legal implications have just begun.

It will come as no surprise to lawyers that allegations of negligence, neglect, breach of contract, and collusion have already arisen. Québec in particular has proven itself to be an indicator of the overall trend across Canada and indeed North America as a whole.

A timeline of the Coronavirus within Canada

Shortly after the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic in March of 2020, Canadian and U.S. jurisdictions began adopting measures aimed at halting or slowing the spread of the disease. Within Canada, the Quarantine Act was invoked along with funding initiatives and other relief programmes.

Since then, those public health emergency decrees have been extended multiple times, affecting life, business, and the justice system. Among the courts, only the most urgent civil matters moved ahead while the system participated in a partial lockdown. Despite these disruptions, class actions have continued to be filed across the country, most particularly in Québec.

Class Actions in the era of COVID-19

Not unexpectedly, the first COVID-19 related class action to be filed in Québec was brought against airlines and their affiliated tour companies. The rapid and severe rise of COVID-19 and its associated restrictions caused a swell of cancellations among business and vacation travelers alike – many of whom sought reimbursement of their ticket purchase price, not the credits offered by their airlines.

By midsummer, class actions related to “business interruption” or “operation loss” clauses in insurance policies accounted for the largest number of class actions related to COVID-19. In eight cases brought on behalf of different classes of insureds, it is alleged that their insurers have refused to provide them with indemnification despite the significant lost income resulting from provincial decrees mandating the closure of all non-essential businesses.

Still other class actions have included those living in long-term care and housing centres and even correctional facilities – both locations hit hard by a virus that easily spreads among groups of people and within enclosed spaces.

A cure is just the beginning for law firms

The class action seems particularly well-suited to the scope and complexity of COVID-19 related injuries. Already, the class actions listed above have been instituted in Québec and other North American jurisdictions. Other claims, just as consequential, are likely to follow. Regardless of when it is eradicated, it seems COVID-19 will be remembered – and litigated on a historic scale – for years to come.

For a more detailed look at the class actions discussed above, read Class Conflict in a Time of Plague: COVID-19 and the Class Actions to Which It Is Giving Rise.

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