Covid-19: Where science, litigation, and the economy intersect
We face many challenges as we recover from the public health and economic damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the public policy measures—some based on fact and others on fear—that were intended to keep us safe.
For many Americans, scientific evidence about the virus’s relatively mild impact on the vast majority of the population only fuels their desire to return to work, school, and community. They see the virus as a large risk for a small segment of the population and a small risk for the vast majority of us, and, while there is no foolproof way to reopen society, the benefits of returning to some sense of normality are far less risky than the damage caused by prolonging economic shutdowns and social isolation.
For others, the fear of contracting the virus is still overwhelming and it may take them much longer to venture out of their homes; interact with neighbors, friends, and family; return to stores and shopping centers; and plan their next vacation. For this segment of the population, the crisis won’t be over until a treatment or vaccine is firmly in place.
This is why, despite the recent positive economic news on employment gains, many experts are predicting a slow economic recovery that could take years—potentially up to a decade—for the economy to fully recover to pre-Covid levels. Unfortunately, thousands of businesses will not survive the transition, and entire industries, including airlines, hotel, and retail, may be permanently transformed.
Consumer confidence and financial spending power are not the only threat to businesses small and large—the fear of being hit with lawsuits by employees and customers who may come down with the virus also exists. This fear is well justified: hundreds of lawsuits have already been filed with mass-litigation firms working furiously to recruit clients for additional suits and potential class action litigation.
America is a litigation-friendly society and every consumer pays the price, not only for the lawsuits that go to court, but for the additional costs businesses incur to protect themselves from such litigation.
Scientific evidence, of course, will be at the heart of these cases. Attorneys will have to demonstrate that businesses acted negligently or ignored government-mandated guidelines that exposed workers and consumers to the virus. And, they will also have to demonstrate that the employee or customer contracted the virus while at work or patronizing the business. Meanwhile, state and federal legislators are debating proposals to provide employers some limited immunity or safe harbor from litigation that could put the final nail in the coffin of small businesses trying to work their way back from a government-mandated shutdown.
This is all new territory for the judicial system, the scientific community, and the economy. The Center for Truth in Science will be keeping a close eye on these developments and will ensure that unbiased and objective facts are part of any conversations on the matter.