by Jeff Sovern
The argument that businesses should not be liable to consumers whom they carelessly infect with the coronavirus is based on the claim that if Congress does not outlaw such cases, we will see a tidal wave of lawsuits. Thus far, that argument has no basis in reality. In fact, if anything, consumer claims are getting lost in the undertow. A recent Pew study found that the "[c]ivil caseloads dropped more than 18 percent from 2009 to 2017" even though "more than half of all U.S. households experienced one or more legal issues that could have gone to court. . . ." But there is a tidal wave of litigation going on–only it's a tidal wave of businesses suing consumers. According to the same Pew study, the available data indicate that debt claims now "dominate" state courts, to the point that about a quarter of state civil cases consist of debt collection claims. It looks as if businesses are winning the fight over access to courts while trying to create the illusion that they are losing.