As our country struggles with returning to normalcy after the difficulties inflicted by the Coronavirus, throughout the fifty states lawsuits are beginning to be filed that originate, at least in part, with repercussions from the outbreak. With companies just starting to reopen their doors, some experts believe tort lawyers are readying clients to file lawsuits for lost wages and medical costs associated with contracting the disease while in a person’s business. The possibility of wrongful death lawsuits initiating from the cruise ship industry is a valid concern as well, with an April 23, 2020, Miami Herald article finding at least seventy-six deaths related to the industry. The list of potential cases is endless. There are nursing home industry fatalities; employment issues for back pay; commercial real estate leases broken by once profitable companies; criminal charges for breaking stay at home orders; and the list goes on and on and on.Ultimately, should these cases be brought to trial, jurors will decide their fate. But with any proceeding, the ability for the parties to obtain a fair trial is paramount. Many mechanisms have been put in place to guarantee this protection. One in particular is the use of change of venue requests. Lawyers who believe it is impossible to select a fair jury from a particular location may seek this unusual remedy in the hopes of having their case transferred to a different locale to ensure fairness and impartiality. Typically, these requests are made in high profile cases where an overabundance of media attention has tainted the jury pool. But other examples exist where change of venues have occurred either because a party employs several individuals in a town or where a community has been significantly impacted by the misdeeds of a defendant.This article attempts to determine the validity of change of venue requests for Covid-19 related cases in “hot spots” where cases have been extremely prevalent or deadly. The hypothesis is that these locations will have greater potential for jurors to be tainted because it will be unlikely that enough potential jurors escaped the fallout from the disease. It will begin by tracing the history of change of venue motions to determine the rationale behind their use. Next, examples will be provided of successful and unsuccessful venue change requests to determine how the courts decide when the remedy is appropriate versus when it is not. Based on this analysis, the article will then attempt to predict the general likelihood that these requests will be successful in specific Coronavirus cases.The document’s ultimate goal is to provide guidance on if and how these challenges should be made. As of the writing of this article, the United States is approaching nearly five million confirmed cases of the disease. It is predicted by December 2020, our country will see three-hundred-thousand Americans lose their lives because of the illness. At its peak, the unemployment rate hit 14.7%, numbers not seen since the Great Depression. There is no doubt that Covid-19 has infiltrated every part of society. Most courts have been closed for months, and as such, initially halting the filing of new claims. But the keys to the courthouse cannot be withheld forever. It is only a matter of time before the flood gates open.
Marc A. Consalo,
Change of Venue in Covid-19 “Hot Spots”: Can Coronavirus related lawsuits get fair trials in locations hit hardest by the disease?,
Lincoln Mem’l U. L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.lmunet.edu/lmulrev/vol8/iss1/3