There is little doubt that the coronavirus has permeated all aspects of all our lives, personally and professionally. Litigation isn’t immune.
My team of associates, paralegals and I tried a case to verdict the week of March 9th. This was just one week before we were bombarded with daily news of the events unfolding in Italy and the stay-at-home orders being issued in various states.
Jury selection use to be confined to potential jurors speaking about their personal life experiences and feelings on litigation. Quickly, the talk of coronavirus and the potential for what it could mean for our futures and health not only came up repeatedly, but as context in almost every conversation.
As the trial continued, coronavirus monopolized the discussion within the courtroom. Everyone had a concern to share–from court personnel to people who wandered in to watch the trial, to the judge and the lawyers, and after the trial concluded, the jurors.
Now here we are amidst a stay-at-home order and social distancing requirements with many clients wondering how these circumstances impact their case.
Will Coronavirus Impact My Lawsuit?
The question I get frequently from clients is probably the most obvious: Does the coronavirus and resulting quarantine/social distancing affect my case or the ability to proceed in my case?
The answer is like most things in the law – it depends. So far, most things in litigation are continuing as normal. Most litigation tasks continue to be completed online through Zoom or other video conferencing software.
In nearly every jurisdiction that Brown & Crouppen practices in (Illinois, Kansas and Missouri), state and federal courts have made the move to online filing of petitions and pleadings. Most of these courts and judges have functioned electronically for quite some time.
Coronavirus and Its Impact on Trials
That said, there are some areas of personal injury and other litigation practices where we are seeing impact. One area is expert depositions that require doctors and/or nurses at trials. Obviously, medical personnel are on the front lines and caring for patients. That’s their priority. Even doctors who are not currently practicing in hospitals or emergency rooms are affected by today’s events. As a result, some of these required and necessary depositions are being canceled or postponed.
Another area where coronavirus has impacted litigation are the trials themselves, due to the stay-at-home guidelines in almost every state. People might be surprised to know that most cases that are filed and litigated do not result in trials. Fortunately, or unfortunately, a very small percentage of cases that are filed end up going to trial. An even smaller percentage of those cases where a trial is started actually go to the jury verdict.
But for those cases, trials have paused. Every court that we practice in has canceled or postponed trials as a result of the stay-at-home orders. Whether that means more cases will resolve in the time between pandemic and normalcy or a backlog of cases to try once court proceedings resume remains to be seen.
Practical Advice During the Coronavirus
Most law offices continue to work remotely. Even at this time, while some things like mail and person to person meetings are delayed, trust that most lawyers are completing tasks on your case just as we were before the novel coronavirus.
In the meantime:
Make sure you get the treatment that you need. Whether you are involved in litigation or not, the most important thing that each of us can do is take care of our physical and mental well-being right now. In every case it is critical that clients get better or get the medical assistance they need for their injuries. Receiving treatment and attending doctors’ appointments looks differently nowadays. You may not be able to actually go to the doctor. However, most medical offices are offering telemedical appointments via video and teleconferencing—and, in severe cases, in-person appointments with more personal protective equipment protocol.
Don’t struggle by yourself or in silence. If you are having difficulty with getting access to everyday essentials or other services, call our office and we will help locate resources to help.
Be patient. We will get through this. If you had a case before the coronavirus started, you will have a case after this virus. Your case will continue.