This article originally appears in the February 28, 2022, edition of All Rise.

Over the past two years, courts across the globe have faced an onslaught of novel legal questions and challenges, as individuals, corporations and public bodies have turned to the legal system to resolve the unprecedented private and public law issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response, a new initiative has emerged with the recent launch of covid19litigation.org, an open-access database of international COVID-19-related court decisions. The COVID-19 Litigation Project, which is funded in part by the World Health Organization and is coordinated by Italy’s University of Trento’s Faculty of Law in collaboration with an international network of judges and legal scholars, provides free access to legal judgments on COVID-19-related issues from over 70 different countries.

“We understood pretty soon that there would end up being a lot of litigation about the impact of the measures adopted by states on fundamental rights,” explained Paola Iamiceli, a Full Professor of Private Law at the Faculty of Law of the University of Trento and the Scientific Coordinator for the Project.

Noting that the types of legal claims and outcomes are highly dependent on the legal culture of each country, Iamiceli stated: “On the one side, we saw that this huge legal issue was coming, and on the other side, we saw a lot of differences and were interested in how litigation was going in different countries.” Iamiceli further explained that the project was created in the hope that it could help guide policymakers in evaluating their own measures as well as informing judges as to the issues faced by their peers in other jurisdictions.

At present, the website has published over 700 court decisions, the largest percentage of which deal with issues relating to the right to health, freedom of movement and freedom to conduct a business. While the decisions published on the COVID-19 Litigation Database focus on challenges to the exercise of governmental authority in implementing public health measures, its selection also covers a wide range of other areas of law affected by the pandemic, including private law matters.

Iamiceli says that the project will continue to collect and publish decisions moving forward and predicts that the next phase of cases will center on liability issues. Noting that cases thus far have focused on challenges to lockdowns, vaccination mandates and restrictions relating to vaccination status, she anticipates that the next phase of litigation will surround challenges based on state and hospital liability. “We will have a lot of cases about the liability of the states or liability of hospitals for damages caused by measures taken by the states during the pandemic,” she forecast.

Court judgments are sourced from North America, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia, Africa and Oceania, with the highest percentage of currently published cases coming out of the United States, India and Brazil. Each decision, regardless of its language of origin, is presented with a case overview and analysis in English, with direct links to the original decision. Recent headlines on the website’s news page include: “Spain – First instance judge allows father to take final decision not to vaccinate child, opposing mother,” “Taiwan – Sentenced to prison for selling counterfeit Chinese masks” and “Kenya – The Labor Court reinstates the workers who have been dismissed due to COVID-19”.

For more information on the COVID-19 Litigation Project or to submit a legal case of interest, visit https://www.covid19litigation.org.

 

Sara Collin is a Quebec-based lawyer, specializing in legal writing, editing, research and translation throughout Canada.