COVID-19 Liability

Last Updated: May 19, 2024

The Issue

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security issued guidance designating certain businesses as critical infrastructure, including the convenience store industry and its supply chain. With more than 152,000 convenience stores, the convenience store industry committed to staying open during this time of crisis when Americans needed them most to provide fuel, food, beverages, over-the-counter medication, and other goods and services.

To maintain daily operations, convenience retailers worked to protect both their employees and customers. Businesses worked hard to overcome numerous hurdles, such as constantly changing health guidelines and supply shortages. They instituted intensive cleaning and sanitation protocols, provided personnel protective equipment to employees, and enacted social distancing, among other measures.

Despite their best efforts, these businesses could have faced exorbitant civil suits alleging that individuals contracted COVID-19 at one of their locations simply because they were open and operating during the pandemic.

Retail Impact

Thousands of COVID-liability cases had been filed. Legal advertising by plaintiffs’ firms substantially increased, indicating an uptick in outreach from firms aggressively seeking plaintiffs to bring lawsuits against businesses.

The U.S. convenience store industry has more than 152,000 convenience stores, of which more than 60% are single-store operators. Costly and harmful litigation would have been crippling for the businesses that were trying to meet the needs of their communities while surviving the economic disruption of the pandemic.