Climate change and ADA violations are two of the major issues prompting the rise in litigation against business entities, experts say
— Large and small corporations alike have felt the impact of an increase in business lawsuits in 2019, a trend that is not anticipated to reverse any time soon. While large corporations have faced an increase in class action suits, smaller entities have seen a rise in suits brought by customers and employees. Two issues that are motivating a large number of these lawsuits are climate change an ADA violations.
Climate change lawsuits are coming from U.S. cities and counties all over the nation that are claiming that major oil and gas companies have a created a public nuisance or exhibited negligence by failing to prevent predictable consequences of the mining and burning of fossil fuels. Similar to the big lawsuits of the 1980s and 90s against tobacco companies, citizens are once again demanding that an industry take responsibility for a public health and safety crisis.
For example, California lawsuits have demanded that oil companies pay for measures to mitigate the effects of climate change, such as building a sea wall to protect against a rise in the sea level. The state of New York has sued the top five oil companies, seeking damages to pay for infrastructure adaptations to protect the city against climate change. As courts decide how existing laws should be applied to climate change lawsuits, the number of lawsuits filed against U.S. businesses continues to grow.
Another issue that has motivated a large number of recent lawsuits is website accessibility. In fact, the number of ADA lawsuits related to website accessibility has tripled since 2017. Plaintiffs in 14 states have sued businesses whose websites are not accessible to individuals with a visual disability.
In most cases, complaints have been brought by job applicants claiming that a non-accessible online application process is a form of job discrimination that is prohibited by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, customers have also sued companies for restricting access to their products or services. For example, a visually impaired customer recently sued a pizza company when he was not able to place an order on the company's website due to his disability.
Other contentious issues behind the rise in business lawsuits include intellectual property and patents, immigration audits, workplace harassment and discrimination, and consumer protection. A large percentage of lawsuits often target a single company, as in the case of Bayer, the German pharmaceutical company that is currently facing more than 18,000 individual suits related to its labeling of Roundup, a weed killer that contains a known carcinogen.
As the number of lawsuits brought against corporations continues to grow, business entities are becoming increasingly aware of the need for protection. Having a trusted registered agent is often seen as the first line of defense. The agent serves as a liaison between a business and other entities, including the government, another business, or a legal team. Rather than simply naming an employee for this position, more and more businesses these days are turning to services like Universal Registered Agents to hire a dedicated agent.
Insurance companies are also seeing a rise in liability insurance as businesses are investing more in risk management. Liability insurance products include general liability, which covers lawsuits by employees injured at work, as well as errors and omissions liability, which protects a business from certain lawsuits brought by clients or customers. Larger corporations are also investing in liability insurance to protect its board of directors and officers.
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