The Coronavirus’ (COVID-19) impact is evident, attacking our welfare and freedoms we come to enjoy. Easy to see are the closures of businesses and events. Crosses all income classes and directly or indirectly affects all businesses. The effects across the economy will be felt many months or years after the coronavirus dissipates.
The more esoteric legal implications of the virus, however, is less known or talked about. With business disruptions come legal issues which contracts have not considered or addressed. Indeed, with the new coronavirus issues that will be presented new legal challenges will be present and new precedence will need to be addressed by the Courts.
The issues that will require legal redress include the following:
1. Paid Time off to employees who are affected.
Currently, Federal and State Law markers are considering passing significant relieve to pay employees during a time period where they are unable to work as a direct or indirect result of the Coronavirus.
Anytime there is new regulations, there will be individuals who will file claims for compensation, but not be given the compensation based on interpretations as to who is eligible. For instance, will an employee who is not ill but simply concerned about the coronavirus be eligible?
2. Sick Leave Policy / FMLA
Clearly, an individual who falls ill due to the Coronavirus is covered under the FMLA’s “significant medical condition” language. However, many employees are not covered by the FMLA because they have not worked the requisite hours or work for an employer with less than 50 employees. If an employee is not covered by the FMLA, then the employee / employer relationship is covered by the employer’s sick leave policy or Paid Time Off Policy (“PTO”). Further complicating the issue will be situations where the employee has exhausted his or her leave time and may be subject to an adverse employment action.
Long after the Coronavirus has been fully mitigated, lawyers and attorneys will be litigating these employment related issues.
3. Workers’ Compensation claims as a result of the Coronavirus.
An employee who is injured at work is oftentimes entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The transmission of the coronavirus covid-19 that occurs at work will probably be a workers’ compensation issue. Until we have clear guidance by the legislature or the Courts, whether workers’ comp will cover these claims is left to be decided. Moreover, the extent of the proof necessary to establish where the transmission occurred is likely to be legally challenged through the Court system and appellate system.
4. Breach of Contract Claims as a result of not being able to comply with contractual provisions.
Most contracts drafted have not anticipated how the Coronavirus can affect their contractual relationship. Many contracts do have what is known as an “Act of God” clause or a “Force Majeure” clause. However, even these contracts do not address situations where partial performance can be accomplished, or an interpretation if the reason for the non-performance is an issue which the CDC has not issued a guideline on.
It is anticipated that the Courts will need to address whether individuals could breach a contract if they chose to take precautionary actions which exceed the CDC guidelines or community standards?
5. Unemployment Claims.
The extent of how much unemployment will occur is also unknown. However, there will be more claims.
In the event that an employee does not report to work, will that be considered job abandonment.
6. Cancellation policies.
The Coronavirus has caused almost all events to be cancelled. Do companies have to reimburse clients or provide them credit for a future event? What about all the incidental costs associated with a cancellation including the event planer’s initial costs? Who bears the brunt of these costs between contractors and subcontractors and vendors will be highly contested particular where the monetary damages are significant.
7. Insurance claims.
There will be a rise many types of insurance claims (except car accident insurance claims which we are seeing a reduction of as people are driving less). The insurance claims we will see include FINRA related claims due to vast investment losses, increased Errors and Omissions claims, and commercial policies claims as a result of damages incurred by company acts which may have contributed to transmission or injury of customers.
8. Negligence as a result of not taking precautionary steps or following CDC guidelines.
Our jurisprudence provides for an individual to recover money from another individual or entity which has caused him or her damages.
If a company does not follow a CDC guideline of a community policy as to taking preventive measures, then that company may be held accountable for the damages it has caused.
The elements of negligence are, duty, breach of duty, causation and damages. There could be countless scenarios where a company has a duty to protect its customers, it breached its duty by not taking appropriate steps, and as a result of failing to take proper steps, damages have occurred.
The extent of the legal implications of the Coronavirus are yet unknown. However, we do know that there will be many issues that need to be addressed by lawyers, attorneys, and the Courts. We are already representing numerous clients with legal issues that have arisen as a result of the Coronavirus including many of the issues afore-stated.
We anticipate that these issues will only increase in the coming months, and our team of lawyers are here to help.
If you have been affected by the Coronavirus and the affect has been exacerbated by any act or omission of another, the Law Firm of Arcadier, Biggie and Wood, PLLC is here to help. We can discuss the particulars of your situation with an in-person, phone or skype consult. At the consult, we can evaluate your case and determine the best course of action.
The lawyers and attorneys at The Law offices of Arcadier, Biggie and Wood, PLLC has extensive experience in commercial litigation law, including trial work, and is poised to address the legal needs of our Central Florida Community as the coronavirus continues to have adverse economic impacts in our economy.