If tracking litigation is merely challenging, then tracking COVID-19 litigation must be a form of madness. Every day brings new cases and new theories of recovery across the country, as the virus continues to disrupt nearly every aspect of our lives.
According to legal data analysis provider Lex Machina, federal courts have seen more than 200 COVID-19-related cases filed each week since April 2020.
Tracking COVID-19 litigation is as ambitious as tracking the virus itself.
Undaunted, many law firms are making the attempt. Many of them have clients who are neck-deep in COVID-19 compliance obligations or are facing significant legal exposure due to the virus. Others see a marketing opportunity in the public’s thirst for COVID-19 information. If current clients have a need for COVID-19 legal information, their thinking goes, then prospective clients will as well. Why not demonstrate the firm’s breadth of knowledge and expertise?
Still others might be engaging in what the younger, non-mortgage-paying generation calls a “flex.” They’re doing it to show that they can.
Leading COVID-19 Case Trackers
Here are some of the best online COVID-19 litigation trackers. Of course, many other law firms are publishing law-related materials regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Efforts in the form of resource centers, industry guides, or thought leadership pieces have been excluded from the list below because they didn’t suggest that they would be regularly updated.
The Hunton Andrews Kurth Complaint Tracker is probably the most ambitious COVID-19 tracking effort among law firms. As of Aug. 13, 2020, the tracker holds 4,280 complaints, most of which are tagged by legal subject matter, jurisdiction, and filing date. Data analytics and visualization tools for the tracker are supplied by the Microsoft Power BI platform and Cognicion, and document analysis services provider.
Dentons publishes a series of trackers covering COVID-19-related legal developments around the globe. The firm’s website has global trackers on competition laws, insolvencies, return to work measures, retail sector legislation, European government aid, data privacy, and taxation.
The Littler Mendelson COVID Labor & Employment Litigation Tracker monitors case filings that impact the workplace. The public-facing components of the tracker display visualizations in the form of charts and tables summarizing the pace of COVID-19-related case filings on employment law topics.
The Fisher Phillips COVID-19 Employment Litigation Tracker is another effort to count and visualize COVID-19-related case filings in the employment law domain. Users of the tracker can filter by jurisdiction and case type. According to the tracker, California, Florida, and New Jersey are hotspots for COVID-19 employment cases. The tracker also uses Microsoft Power BI analysis tools.
The Barnes & Thornburg law firm also offers a COVID-19 Related Workplace Litigation Tracker, powered by Ceros’s suite of content creation software. Unlike other employment law trackers, the Barnes & Thornburg tool contains the case name and brief summary of each lawsuit tracked in its collection.
The COVID Coverage Litigation Tracker, published by the University of Pennsylvania Law School’s Insurance Law Analytics initiative, takes a detailed look at COVID-19-related litigation involving insurance companies. The tracker tags each case by insurance coverage sought, pandemic-related reasons for dismissal, class action status, bad faith allegations, policy exclusions, and insurance companies involved in the case.
Another university tracking effort is being undertaken at the University of Michigan Law School’s Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse. Its COVID-19 Special Collection tracks every civil rights case arising from COVID-19, with detailed information on each case, including: case name, jurisdiction, case number, and legal rights asserted, along with a narrative summary of the case.
Lex Machina offers a free glimpse of its LexMachina COVID-19 Impact Analyzer app. The tracker shows how COVID-19 case filings have affected the federal court system’s caseload. According to the tracker, at least 200 complaints involving COVID-19 have been filed in federal courts each week since April 13, 2020. The high water mark was July 27 to Aug. 2, when 413 new complaints mentioning COVID-19 were filed. Other findings mentioned: bankruptcy cases up 40 percent, product liability cases up 373 percent, antitrust cases down 40 percent — all from the prior year.
As the title suggests, the White & Case COVID-19 Key Provisions Tracker for Shelter in Place, Safer and Home, and Other Work Reduction Orders for Key Jurisdictions in the United States summarizes the various pandemic-related shutdown and social distancing orders issued by state governments. The information is available in a spreadsheet regularly updated by the firm.
The Sidley Austin Compendium of U.S. State Insurance Department Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic collects in one place all of the insurance regulations and orders that have been imposed on the insurance industry since the pandemic struck the United States.
Law professor Richard Hasen’s election law blog is tracking voting law cases raising legal issues stemming from COVID-19 on its List of COVID-19 Election Law Cases page. As of Aug. 20, Prof. Hasen has found 211 such cases across 43 states and the District of Columbia.
Jenner & Block is monitoring state reopening orders and dates in its Statewide Reopening Orders Tracker. This tracker, a spreadsheet, also summarizes the scope of each order, lists which types of businesses are open or closed, and links to the official text of the regulation.
Trackers as Content Marketing Initiatives
Apart from the information they provide on COVID-19’s litigation, the study of trackers as a content marketing tool can be instructive.
Hunton Andrews Kurth came out early with an ambitious effort to track all complaints relating to COVID-19. The significant resources the firm evidently put into its tracker — no doubt leveraging knowledge management technologies already in place — has been rewarded with extensive media mentions.
Other firms elected to limit the breadth of their trackers to key practice areas, hoping to demonstrate expertise in those fields. Employment law knowledge is on display with trackers from Littler Mendelson, Fisher Phillips, and Barnes & Thornburg; global competition law from Dentons; and insurance regulation from White & Case.
With the exception of the university-sponsored trackers — which provide case names, numbers and links to source documents — the focus of the
trackers is directed to counting, categorizing, and visualizing the overall state of COVID-19 litigation. They attract online traffic, imply law firm expertise, and invite readers to start a relationship with the firm.
The public is fortunate to have these resources free of charge. They represent the best type of legal marketing — useful, reliable information that demonstrates the publisher’s expertise and plants in the reader’s mind the impression of a trusted partner for resolving novel and difficult business problems.