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How Law Firms Are Preparing To Sue States Over Covid-19 Response Measures


Reign Mack

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As governments take action to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent economic collapse, big law firms are watching the virus too. Yet their concern is not to save lives or the economy. Instead the lawyers urge big business to challenge emergency measures in order to defend their profits. In a parallel corporate justice system called ISDS, states could face multi-million dollar lawsuits.

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WallyWest

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The sad thing is if the .gov loses they pay us with our own money, and raise taxes next year to punish us for it.
 
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Rubi04

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Yep, that's the shitty thing about being able to sue the city, government, etc. If you win, the tax payers just end up paying for it.

And those responsible for the decisions or actions aren’t held personally liable. If not held responsible, what incentive do they have to do the right thing?
 

Westtown Willy

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Yep, that's the shitty thing about being able to sue the city, government, etc. If you win, the tax payers just end up paying for it.
Quite a bit of what the government gets sued for is the same everyone else gets sued for, motor vehicle accidents & premises liability claims, the aggregate of employees, vehicles & land under government control being the largest in the country. Those losses are generally covered the same way also, through insurance coverage as opposed to being paid out of the government till.

Claims against governmental entities are also subject to & limited by each entity’s sovereign immunity statute which lays out what causes of action the government ‘consents’ to and also often contain other restrictions like heightened damage requirements and caps on damages. Said another way you can’t successfully sue the government for everything you might think you can.

If your complaint alleges a constitutional violation that’s often different, you’re probably seeking declaratory or injunctive type relief rather than damages (cash), i.e., to enjoin the government from taking certain actions or enforcing certain laws. A perfect example of this was the corona case that recently wiggled its way to the top, in this case the plaintiffs weren’t seeking money but rather an injunction stopping a state from enforcing an order restricting church capacity.


Certainly all of these things do cost the government, us, money, as they have to buy insurance like the rest of us to cover things they may be held liable for and they also have to pay court costs & attorney’s fees to litigate the constitutional challenges, however it’s hardly open season on the treasury when it comes to assessments of damages & execution of judgments. One big exception that comes to mind where governments pay big are the cases you hear about from time to time where someone is released from prison after 27 years when new DNA evidence comes to light showing he was wrongfully convicted & there was some kind of prosecutorial misconduct that helped lead to the conviction.

Of course this is all a one-way street, we as citizens enjoy no such immunity or cap on damages when being sued by the government. We can be sued without limit and subjected to forfeitures, fines & even jailed if the conduct goes far enough. I haven’t researched the numbers but I’d speculate that the government might take in at least as much as it pays out.

These looming corona related lawsuits that are coming down the pike that will target public and private defendants will be interesting. I think at least as related to the suits against governments, the above Supreme Court case is a decent barometer as I don’t believe the government, of which courts are part of, will allow itself to be held liable for decisions made during a pandemic, at least if there was some rational public health basis for their decisions at the time they were made as opposed to what it all looks like in hindsight. Surely some of these orders we’re seeing are ridiculous by any measure & they should be challenged in the present as failing to be narrowly tailored to advance a compelling government interest, rather than suing for damages later.
 
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