What kind of COVID-19 related lawsuits is Texas seeing?

Texas

A business that had been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic posts signage after it reopened in San Antonio, Thursday, May 14, 2020. Texas attorney general Ken Paxton has warned officials in San Antonio, Austin and Dallas that the cities could face lawsuits if they do not relax coronavirus measures he says go further than state law allows. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The latest precedent for a pandemic-era case might be 102 years old.

That’s until a new ruling comes down, at least. A recent flurry of COVID-19 related lawsuits have popped up across the country and in Texas.

Just on Monday, for example, a breach of contract lawsuit was filed in Travis County District Court over KN95 masks.

Torsten Kracht is a Washington D.C.-based lawyer with Hunton Andrews Kurth, a global law firm with offices in Austin. He oversees the firm’s COVID-19 complaint tracker.

“This is an interesting time to be watching this,” he said.

According to their data, at least 2,360 COVID-19 civil lawsuits have been filed nationwide, 153 in Texas.

For Kracht, the tracker started as a way to monitor force majeure contract lawsuits, where one party usually argues that they couldn’t perform their contractual obligations because of an event outside of their control.

Now, it’s morphed into at least 15 categories of COVID-related complaints, everything from contract disputes to people challenging stay-at-home orders.

Insurance-related complaints make up about a third of Texas’ cases.

But, as far as precedent in a pandemic-era contractual dispute, you’d have to go back to 1918.

That case involved a breach of contract over a baby show in Connecticut during the polio epidemic. The Connecticut Supreme Court ruled then that the party involved was “excused from the fulfillment of its contract by the outbreak of an epidemic.”

So, what the courts decide in these COVID-19 civil lawsuits in the future will be telling.

“After that, it’s really sort of a dry landscape,” Kracht said. “It’ll be interesting to see how courts deal with it.”

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