COVID-19 Aftermath: New York Business Attorneys Explain Litigation
The 2020 Coronavirus global pandemic (COVID-19) has presented dozens of legal situations that could never have been imagined, creating unchartered territory for business litigation. The IRS, state, city and county governments are making changes to deadlines and filing requirements.
Legal experts have predicted a surge in coronavirus litigation, related to everything from insurance coverage and employment to commercial contracts and event bookings.
COVID-19 Contract Disputes and Litigation
The coronavirus pandemic presented a number of performance issues under business contracts, due to both social distancing and quarantine orders. For others in essential businesses, diminished supply chains make performance impossible.
Force Majeure / Performance Excuse Clauses
Resolution of many disputes will come down to the fine print of boilerplate contracts. Does a contract have a force majeure clause, specifically excusing nonperformance? Force majeure clauses may stipulate a specific list of events that would excuse performance. Key words might be travel ban, pandemic, government action or quarantine.
Outside of a specific clause, disputes may arise if a contract is signed, and subsequently enacted laws or government action renders contract performance unlawful. Parties may dispute whether the contract over (must be terminated), or must it be postponed?
Aside from force majeure, business dispute lawyer can immediately identify other relevant contract clauses and provisions, including:
- Impossibility clauses
- Best effort clauses
- Frustration of purpose clauses
- Grace periods for delay
- Material adverse changes/events
- Termination and default provisions
- Dispute resolution provisions requiring termination or postponement
- Notice requirements for delays / non-performance.
COVID-19 Employment Issues
Despite the challenging and changing environment of COVID-19, employers still have responsibilities to employees, such as keeping a workplace environment free from age and disability discrimination, including asking an employee if they have any preexisting health conditions or a compromised immune system that would make them more susceptible to COVID-19.
Employers also have a responsibility to notify other employees of possible exposure, while preserving the confidentiality of an ill employee. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law on March 18, 2020, created additional sick leave and paid family leave for employees whose jobs were impacted due to COVID-19.
COVID-19 Healthcare Issues
Healthcare has changed in light of the coronavirus pandemic, and doctors, nurses and other health care providers are being asked to go provide care where needed. This raises liability concerns for physicians who are on the front lines caring for COVID-19 patients, either on a volunteer basis or as Good Samaritans. Other doctors have shifted their care practices to telemedicine, or are having to base treatment decisions on government directives.
Senior care facilities such as nursing homes house some of the most vulnerable people to coronavirus, with death estimates in the thousands. Many states have enacted “immunity laws” giving protection to nursing homes and health care workers for civil or criminal lawsuits. Health care providers may require assistance if policy gaps leave them vulnerable to litigation.
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We look forward to speaking with you and helping you.