Legal Roundup: 3M Sues Over COVID-19 Price Gouging, College Students Demand Reimbursement and More

The latest court decisions impacting risk management and the insurance industry.
By: | April 15, 2020

3M Sues Over N95 Mask Price Gouging 

The Case: 3M sued a New Jersey company for attempting to resell N95 masks to New York City officials at a 500% markup.

The lawsuit also alleges that the company, Performance Supply LLC, falsely claimed to be affiliated with 3M, according to CNBC.

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Denise Rutherford, 3M’s senior vice president, corporate affairs, said in a statement: “3M does not — and will not — tolerate price gouging, fraud, deception, or other activities that unlawfully exploit the demand for critical 3M products during a pandemic. 3M will not stop here. We continue to work with federal and state law enforcement authorities, and around the world, to investigate and track down those who are illegally taking advantage of this situation for their own gain.” 

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed. Performance Supply couldn’t be reached by CNBC.

Takeaway: Getting protective gear to professionals is needed now more than ever. Companies attempting to take advantage of the COVID-19 outbreak will likely be sniffed out by partners, competitors and consumers.

“The shortage of respirators and other personal protective equipment has hampered efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19, forcing health care workers to wear the same gear for much longer than normal,” CNBC reported. 

College Students Say They Paid for In-Person, Not Online Classes

The Case: Students have sued Drexel University and the University of Miami, claiming they paid for traditional, in-person education and not the online classes being offered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

They’re attempting to recover tuition and room and board fees.

“Some schools prorated rebates for room and board, but very few — if any — have reimbursed students for tuition,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

“That policy has prompted widespread discontent. Students at about 200 schools have started petitions demanding the return of money.” 

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed. “Both schools said they hadn’t reviewed the lawsuits and declined to comment,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Takeaway: The issue at hand is whether online classes suffice during the pandemic.

Attorneys told the Wall Street Journal that since students still receive academic credit, the online classes are enough. Student petitions argue that universities are cashing in on the pandemic while not providing the education they promised.

The Wall Street Journal interviewed St. John’s University student Paul Deutschmann, who called the online classes “a joke” and said “you’re pretty much teaching yourself from a textbook.”

The case could turn into a class-action.

Walmart Sued By Family of Worker Who Died from Coronavirus

The Case: Wando Evans, 51, died on March 25, allegedly from coronavirus complications. Evans spent 15 years working at a Walmart store near Chicago and remained at work during the pandemic.

Now his brother has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Walmart.

It “alleges that Walmart failed to properly respond to symptoms of COVID-19 among several workers at the store. It also alleges the company failed to share this information with workers and to safeguard them with gloves and other protections, or to enforce appropriate distancing, among other measures,” according to NPR.

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed. Walmart said it had not yet received the complaint.

Takeaway: Evans is not the only retail or grocery employee to die from the pandemic.

Another worker at the same Chicago-area Walmart died, along with a 27-year-old greeter at a Giant store in Largo, Md. There will likely be more deaths, leading to more lawsuits from workers’ families.

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Astros, Red Sox for Sign Stealing

The Case: Five fantasy baseball participants sued over the sign stealing scandal that recently rocked Major League Baseball.

They sued “MLB, MLB Advanced Media, the Houston Astros and the Boston Red Sox in federal court in Manhattan, claiming fraud, violation of consumer-protection laws, negligence, unjust enrichment and deceptive trade practices by teams that violated MLB’s rules against the use of electronics to steal catchers’ signs,” according to the Washington Post.

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The men played fantasy baseball competitions on DraftKings during the time the sign stealing took place. 

Scorecard: A federal judge in Manhattan dismissed the case.

U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff wrote that it can’t be denied that “an overweening desire to win may sometimes lead our heroes to employ forbidden substances on their (spit) balls, their (corked) bats, or even their (steroid-consuming) selves,” according to the Washington Post.

“But as Frank Sinatra famously said to Grace Kelly (in the 1956 movie musical High Society), ‘there are rules about such things.’ ”

Takeaway: Fantasy sports players will have a tough time showing damages from wrongdoing on the field. &

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]