Our Firm Stands Ready to Help Our Clients
The COVID-19 pandemic presents myriad legal issues affecting our clients, and a large amount of pandemic-related lawsuits have been filed throughout the country. We anticipate our clients may have, or be forced to defend, claims relating to the shut-down of the international economy. We are ready and prepared to navigate you and your business through the pandemic’s resulting litigation, as well as governmental investigations and enforcement actions.
Business Litigation: Contract, Insurance, and Class Actions
Given the unprecedented and world-wide interruption in business, a recurring question in the pandemic is whether our clients will still need to meet their obligations on commercial leases, loan arrangements, agreements with suppliers and service providers, and other contracts. Several cases have been filed by, and against, commercial landlords, lenders, and suppliers based on breaches caused by the pandemic. The most frequent, and still unanswered, question at the center of the litigation is whether the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes a force majeure event that excuses contractual performance? Bergeson, LLP attorneys are prepared to advise our clients and litigate if necessary—in domestic and international forums—pandemic-related defenses to performance, including: force majeure, civil authority, frustration of purpose, business continuity, and disaster recovery.
Regarding government contracts, our firm will represent contractors in disputes with government agencies and contracting partners arising from pandemic-related work, business disruptions, and participation in government programs.
Another issue during the COVID-19 pandemic is the insurance industry’s refusal to honor business interruption policies, claiming the policies do not cover virus-related shutdowns. Coverage denial has resulted in numerous breach of contract lawsuits against insurers by small and large businesses alike. Moreover, the surge in cyberattacks during the pandemic has resulted in cyber insurance coverage disputes. Bergeson, LLP will vigorously pursue claims against the insurance industry for its denial of claims stemming from the virus.
Class action lawsuits related to the coronavirus against several industries are on the rise. Banks and financial institutions are facing class action litigation aimed at preventing foreclosures, suspending debt collection, and the administration of loans under the CARES Act Payroll Protection Program (“PPP”). Educational programs and institutions are facing class action claims by students related to campus closures, access to resources, and future operation. Employers are facing several class action claims, including wage and hour, workplace safety, accommodation and discrimination claims. Also prevalent are consumer claims based on the cancellation or disruption of memberships, events and services. Targeted industries include live event and ticketing, airline, and fitness. And, public companies face class action claims by shareholders concerning statements and omissions about the impact of COVID-19 on their operations and performance.
Several retailers and manufacturers are now defending against class action suits for price gouging (on products such as face masks, cleaning products, hand sanitizer, eggs and toilet paper) and consumer fraud (for products such as fake cure kits, test kits, and vaccines, and sanitizing devices allegedly ineffective against the virus). Moreover, the sharp rise in cyber commuting has resulted in increased privacy and cybersecurity class action claims by consumers based on the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information and the unauthorized access by third parties in data security incidents.
Bergeson, LLP has extensive experience litigating class action lawsuits and looks forward to vigorously defending our affected clients.
Securities Litigation / Enforcement & Government Investigations / Prosecutions
Because of the pandemic’s economic effect, there was a sharp rise in securities claims and enforcement actions, as well as government investigations and prosecutions. Public companies are defending against class action claims by shareholders concerning statements and omissions about the impact of COVID-19 on their operations and performance. Others are defending against claims involving the regulation of financial statements and accounting related to the COVID-19 pandemic, and other issues relating to valuation of assets and liabilities. Stock-drop cases associated with the effects of the COVID-19 crisis have been filed as well.
Given the government’s corporate financial aid programs relating to COVID-19, it comes as no surprise that some recipients have been targeted by government investigations with respect to their PPP loans. The Department of Justice has charged 57 people since May with trying to steal more than $175 million from the federal rescue program.
If your company or you is under investigation or charged by the government for crimes or claims related to the pandemic, Bergeson, LLP’s highly experienced white-collar team will mount a vigorous defense on your company’s or your behalf.
Directors & Officers (D&O) Liability
In addition to claims against their companies, boards and management have been subjected to virus-related tort and contract claims. Moreover, directors and officers have been pulled into securities litigation and become the subject of investigations relating to disclosure of COVID-19 risks, as well as insider trading allegations. We counsel Board members to help navigate their responsibilities related to COVID-19 issues, and defend them against related claims.
Our firm is experienced in representing employers and employees in litigation and in counseling employers on their responsibilities under the law.
There is no shortage of COVID-19-related employment litigation filed by individuals and class members. Despite employers’ best efforts, pandemic-related litigation claims are inevitable. Several recently filed cases allege employers failed to provide proper protections against COVID-19, as well as wage and hour, workplace safety, paid leave, WARN Act, ERISA, employee privacy, worker classification, disability accommodation, whistleblower and discrimination pandemic-related claims.
As California and the nation reopen the economy, employers need to develop a plan for operations and the steps they need to take to protect employees and customers. We are closely monitoring the ever-changing COVID-19 health and safety guidelines and regulations. Our team is prepared to counsel employers on how to best fulfill their legal and ethical obligations, from social distancing protocols to paid sick leave.
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