The impact of COVID-19 on business interruption has escalated litigation on several fronts. Businesses that are hardest hit—such as restaurants and others in hospitality—are increasingly filing claims for coverage of lost profits resulting from the pandemic. Does this trend portend legal actions to be taken in other industries? The question then becomes, will epidemiology play an important role in legal disputes for recovery claims?
Often referred to as “the cornerstone” of public health, epidemiology is an unbiased, data-driven approach to studying the spread, cause, and effect of diseases within populations. Attorneys preparing for arising litigation are ironing out their litigation strategies—pinpointing the exact cause of business closures or reduced functions and activities. Was the closure due to a condition in the plaintiff’s facility or due to a condition in the local community? Was the virus or the threat of the virus present? Did public fear in reaction to the pandemic result in a decrease in business? These are just a few of the questions that epidemiologists and other public health experts can answer.
Plaintiff and defense attorneys across industries from entertainment to manufacturing are assessing the damages incurred from the transmissive nature of the coronavirus—threatening the physical and mental health and safety of employees, employers, and consumers alike.
To help determine the cause and effect of different scenarios involved in business disruption, it is likely that attorneys will need an army of experts for support. Below are examples of the types of experts that can be advantageous.
- Epidemiologists/Public Health experts investigate patterns to determine health outcomes. They may rely on modeling and data supplied by others such as Certified Industrial Hygienists (“CIH”) or regulatory guidelines set out by the CDC and other government health officials. Those familiar with mental health might also weigh in on the public “fear factor” that kept patrons away even when stay-at-home orders were loosened or lifted.
- Public Health Officials set regulatory guidelines and provide instruction to businesses and health care workers to operate safely to mitigate the public health risk.
- Certified Industrial Hygienists collect air samples and simulate air quality based on capacity, size, and airflow for the purpose of creating safe environments for workers and the public.
- Biostatisticians monitor and track infection rates and the spread of COVID-19 at a local level.
- Virologists are familiar with how the virus spreads, how long it can live in the air and on surfaces, and how it reacts to cleaning products.
- HVAC/Air handling/Aerosol experts can determine ventilation rates which directly impact how far and quickly an airborne virus such as COVID-19 spreads. Various conditions need to be considered, including airflow direction and speed, capacity, dust control, HVAC equipment, filtration, etc.
- Insurance experts are familiar with industry standards, the intent of contract language, virus exclusions, and bad faith set-ups/denials.
WIT’s COVID-19 expert team includes academic and industry professionals with vast knowledge and experience in fields affected by the pandemic. Check out our COVID-19 Initiative page to learn more about our expert team or contact us to discuss your expert witness needs. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to stay up-to-date on our latest insights.