Law and Business in the Time of Covid-19
The world is not ending with the COVID-19 crisis, even if it may seem that way. While we must stay home for now, sacrificing our social lives and business opportunities to protect our most vulnerable, glimmers of hope do exist all around us and throughout the world. At the local level, people are practicing social distancing, which has ironically brought many families and communities closer together. Local businesses are extending special courtesies to the elderly in this time of need. At the international level, the Wuhan Province (where Covid-19 first wreaked havoc) and greater China have reported no new virus infections for the first time since this ordeal began. Some new data reveals that worldwide cases as a whole are slowing. That being said, because the worst is yet to come in the United States and Florida, what does this mean for law and business in South Florida specifically?
“The problem, says economist Larry Summers, is that economic time has stopped, but financial time has not been stopped.” Basically, tenants and businessowners must still pay the bills, which could be impossible if they were relying on streams of revenue that will not arrive because of the Covid-19 shutdown. The sad truth is that this disconnect will probably lead to massive evictions, foreclosures, bankruptcies, and layoffs. Swift and aggressive government action could lessen the damage from these brutal blows, but the harm caused to individuals and business, especially those in the service economy (like restaurants, bars, event productions, travel and leisure) could be felt for years.
Despite the imminent danger to the economy – we will get through this and we will be stronger than ever. The first step is appreciating the reality of any immediate dangers and understanding your options. Some examples of legal issues that may arise during the pandemic may include:
Breach of Contract – Remember that a contract is only as strong as a party’s will to enforce it. Whether you are considering invoking a force majeure clause or are having one invoked against your business as an excuse to not fulfil prior obligations, it is critical to seek legal counsel to assess risks and rewards.
Insurance Disputes – Although many insurance policies include a “pandemic” or “disease” exclusion, it is worth exploring whether you can obtain a recovery for disruption to your business or a business event.
Business Counseling – Now could be looked upon in 5-10 years as the best time in decades to start or invest in a business. For those with cash – costs and interest rates are low, while labor is abundant. Because this business climate is so unstable, it will prove to be both risky and opportune. A savvy businessperson should seek counsel to help identify the opportunities and mute the distractions.
Personal Injury Claims – In the era of Covid-19, people with compromised immune systems, like the elderly, need to be especially vigilant of their medical treatment and recovery options. Indeed, a routine procedure at a hospital or doctor’s office may unnecessarily expose an immunocompromised patient to this deadly virus. The immediate priority of devoting medical resources to the treatment of Covid-19 patients may also detrimentally impact those in the midst of personal injury claims ranging from straightforward but painful orthopedic issues to those with life-threatening health issues.
Fair Labor Standards Act Claims – The FLSA allows employees and former employees to recover compensation for several categories of violations, like misclassifying full-time workers as part-time employees, or failing to compensate employees for working overtime.
Fair Debt Collections Claims – As many people will sadly fall behind on credit card payments and other liabilities through no fault of their own, debt collectors will likely be on the prowl in the coming months. Unscrupulous creditors may overstep their bounds and violate the law in their collection efforts.
These are trying times, but they are not the end of times. Stay focused and get back to work if you can do so without posing health risks to yourself or those around you. The American spirit will endure and once we are on the other side of this challenge, the economy will be stronger than ever. In the meantime, seek consultation from experienced counsel to help navigate the storm.
Daniel Salomon Smith is the Founding Member of Salomon Smith PLLC, a full-service legal boutique based in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Mr. Smith is experienced in counseling businesses and individuals on a wide-variety of legal issues. He also devotes his time towards helping the injured in personal injury lawsuits and policyholders in disputes with their insurance companies. He can be reached at Daniel@salomonsmith.com or (305) 297-1018.