As I write this, COVID-19 is presenting this country, and all of us, with a challenge. Can we do what is needed to save lives, reopen schools, get our economy moving, and move forward together as a nation? By now, we have all read about the legal battles being fought all over the country related to challenges to public health measures. But these are not the only legal challenges arising from the pandemic. As litigators, we will all likely have to deal with some of the legal fallout from COVID-19. We had previously suggested that during social distancing downtime, we all spend some time thinking and trying to anticipate the coming legal issue. Now that we are a few months farther down the road, some of those issues are coming into focus.
Legal problems and claims on an unprecedented scale are coming: the looming eviction crisis; supply chain problems leading to contract claims; employers’ responsibility for keeping their employees safe from the virus and employer liability for infection; changes in immigration status due to employment or school disruption; and what is sure to be numerous business closures and bankruptcies, just to name a few. And, to borrow a phrase, winter is coming: a time when the pandemic—and the associated legal issues—may grow even worse, especially as it combines with flu season.
So, we’ve identified some issues that we might be facing. That’s great. Now what? We’ve been thinking, but now it’s time to be proactive. We can assist corporate clients prepare policies and procedures to keep employees safe without jeopardizing the company’s interests. We can ask those corporate clients if they have reviewed (or better yet, would like us to review) their insurance policies to see if they have coverage for losses due to COVID-19 (for instance, business interruption coverage or coverage for losses as a result of actions by civil authorities). In Florida, an estimated 51%(!) of renter households are at risk of eviction —there will be a need for pro bono attorneys to assist tenants who will be facing eviction when the moratorium expires.
Finally, we should all do our best to set a good example and show that we care about our fellow citizens. We should minimize our in-person contacts with clients, require masks at our offices, and use masks as needed as we go about our daily lives. For that may ultimately be the best way to help our clients: to be a part of the solution and show that we can get through this, responsibly – and together.
Authored by: Krista L. B. Collins