Our Firm Stands Ready to Help Our Clients
The COVID-19 pandemic presents myriad legal issues affecting our clients. 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. The most frequent question 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 common COVID-19 issue is whether business interruption policies will be honored. Businesses have already started to file breach of contract lawsuits after their insurers wrongly denied coverage by claiming the policies do not cover virus-related shutdowns. Moreover, the surge in cyberattacks during the pandemic will likely result 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. Bergeson, LLP has extensive experience litigating class action lawsuits and looks forward to vigorously defending our affected clients.
Securities Litigation and Enforcement
Because of the pandemic’s economic effect, we expect a sharp rise in securities claims and enforcement actions. Some clients may need to defend against claims related to disclosures surrounding disruption of supply chains, workforce, or resources. Other clients may need to defend 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 are also likely.
Given the government’s corporate financial aid programs relating to COVID-19, we expect some recipients will be the target of congressional, state attorney general and other government investigations, including with respect to their PPP/SBA loans. Other possible government claims against corporations may include price gouging and consumer fraud relating to COVID-19 products or services.
Directors & Officers (D&O) Liability
In addition to claims against their companies, boards and management may be subjected to virus-related tort and contract claims. We counsel Board members to help navigate their responsibilities related to COVID-19 issues. Moreover, directors and officers may be pulled into securities litigation and become the subject of investigations relating to disclosure of COVID-19 risks, as well as insider trading allegations.
There is no shortage of COVID-19-related employment litigation filed by individuals and class members. Our firm is experienced in counseling employers on their responsibilities under the law and in representing employers and employees in litigation.
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.
Despite employers’ best efforts, pandemic-related litigation claims are inevitable. We expect that many clients will be hit with lawsuits by employee “whistleblowers” alleging retaliation for reporting virus-related compliance concerns. The economic downturn, which so far has resulted in over 30 million American workers filing for unemployment benefits, will subject employers to a host of traditional employment claims, including ERISA violations, discrimination of protected classes, and breach of medical privacy. We can also assist with litigation related to claims specifically arising from remote work.
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