Legal Roundup: NY Nurses Sue Over PPE, Egg Producer Enraged by Price Gouging and More

The latest court decisions impacting risk management and the insurance industry.
By: | April 29, 2020

Nurses Sue Over Lack of Protective Equipment, Training Amid COVID-19 Fight

The Case: The New York State Nurses Association sued the New York State Department of Health and two hospitals.

The nurses say a lack of personal protective equipment and training puts them in danger of contracting COVID-19 — especially high-risk employees like pregnant nurses.

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They are asking for one N95 mask per employee per day (as recently directed by the state’s Governor). They also say they haven’t received paid sick leave promised to all New Yorkers who contract the virus.

“More than seven in [ten] of our nurses are reporting exposure to COVID-19 and most are still untested. These lawsuits were filed to protect our nurses, our patients and our communities from grossly inadequate and negligent protections,” said NYSNA Executive Director Pat Kane in a statement.

“We cannot allow these dangerous practices to continue.”

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed.

Takeaway: Nurses are taking legal and political action against what they perceive as unfair working conditions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that at least 9,200 American healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Washington Post says nurse frustration appears to be reaching a “tipping point” in late April.

“Beyond taking legal action, as in the case of New York’s caregivers, members of National Nurses United, the country’s largest union of registered nurses, have planned a protest outside the White House on Tuesday morning to raise awareness of their plight and demand federal funding for the mass production of personal protective equipment.”

Nike Defeats Kawhi Leonard in ‘Klaw’ Logo Dispute

The Case: NBA superstar Kawhi Leonard sued Nike last June.

Leonard claimed he designed the logo appearing on his namesake Nike sneakers so it belonged to him — not the company. (Leonard has since left Nike and moved on to New Balance.)

Nike filed a copyright claim in 2014. Yahoo Sports reports: “Nike countersued in July for copyright infringement, fraud and breach of contract, arguing that Leonard ‘fraudulently claimed to be the author and sole owner of the Klaw design’ when he filed for copyright protection in 2017.”

Scorecard: U.S. District Judge Michael W. Mosman rejected Leonard’s claim. He ruled on April 22 that the Nike logo was “new and significantly different” from the one Leonard drew, according to the Portland Oregonian

Takeaway: A hand-sketched rough draft is not a finished product — so don’t expect to see the logo on a pair of New Balance’s anytime soon. 

Illinois Businesses Sue Over Coronavirus Workers’ Comp Rule

The Case: A group of retailers and manufacturers in Illinois have sued the Workers’ Compensation Commission over new rules to cover front-line workers and first responders with COVID-19. 

The rules require employers “to pay workers’ compensation benefits to employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, assuming the worker contracted the virus on the job,” according to The State Journal-Register

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed.

Takeaway: At issue is a typical 45-day notice of rule changes. The Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the Illinois Manufacturers Association (the plaintiffs) say the Commission exceeded its rule-making authority by rushing the decision through.

Meanwhile, the Commission says it passed the emergency rule quickly because not doing so would cause serious harm to affected workers. We’ll see how it plays out.

Egg Producer Sued By Texas AG for Alleged Price Gouging

The Case: The Texas Attorney General has sued Cal-Maine Foods, claiming the company is selling eggs at a 300% markup during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Wall Street Journal. Cal-Maine — the nation’s largest egg producer — denies the accusation, claiming that prices are dictated by the competitive and volatile egg market.

Scorecard: The case has just recently been filed.

Takeaway: Companies appearing to price gouge during the pandemic will gain the attention of authorities. Some are accused of artificially inflating the cost of high-demand products like hand sanitizer, toilet paper and milk.

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Shark Tank star and businessman Daymond John was accused of selling N95 masks for $7 a piece. (He denies the accusation.)

When it comes to eggs, the Wall Street Journal reports: “Between the beginning of March and the first week of April, wholesale egg prices more than tripled across the country — far outpacing the cost increases for other common foods — squeezing grocers who tried to keep the staple in stock.

Cal-Maine’s Texas prices exceeded the national trend, the attorney general’s lawsuit said, and grocery stores passed those costs on to consumers. On April 9, Cal-Maine delivered a batch of generic eggs to a ‘Texas mom-and-pop business’ for $3.32 a dozen, according to the lawsuit.” &

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]