Each year, in the US alone, PwC estimates B2B trade shows is a $14.3 billion market, with that figure growing to $16.8 billion in 2021. All of this now is at risk in wake of the Covid 19 crisis and its aftermath. The lingering question is in the Coronavirus era, can trade show organizers protect themselves from liability and what are the obligations of the attendees to NOT transmit the virus to others, as many are asymptomatic.
Each year, billions of dollars are spent on trade show registrations, travel, set ups and trade show goers spent similar amounts on hotels to hosting receptions to catch that “big fish” where hundreds of people gather to shake hands, slap each other on their backs and to exchange business cards and war stories in a noisy environment where social distancing is next to impossible.
For example, The International Trademark Association (a gathering of trademark experts) boast its attendance at 10,000 or more. The International Bar Association claims its lawyer and other legal professional attendance is typically at the 5,000 to 6,000 range of participants. COMDEX advertises that its 2019 attendance is 45,217. With such large attendance, in the post Covid 19 era, if there is such a thing, what are the responsibilities and obligations of trade show organizers, networking group hosts, association sponsors, and others who are managing the event for profit? Will such event organizers be held liable for wrongful death should someone catch the disease at such a forum? Would the standard of negligence or gross negligence apply to event organizers in the post Covid 19 era? Or will event organizers be held criminally liable knowing that there is currently no cure for the disease and openly inviting the gathering of hundreds if not thousands of participants in an event where air filtration is questionable, social distancing is impossible, and gathering of strangers from all over the world in close quarters is not only expected but encouraged without impunity?