COVID-19 Litigation Concerns Resulting from Businesses Reopening

COVID-19 Litigation Concerns Resulting from Businesses Reopening

By Nicole Duke and Thomas M. Bona. As states begin to reopen, some businesses are choosing to delay opening their doors. Business owners are considering the risk of a wave of lawsuits that may be filed as a result of deciding to begin work. Employers face potential liability not only from employees who may contract COVID-19 on the job, but also from customers who believe they were exposed by employees. As quoted by Todd Maisch, head of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, “[f]or an employer wanting to get back to normal business, this could be the third crisis facing the nation. The first being the health crisis, the second being the economic crisis, the third being years of a liability crisis.”[1] Personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits are concerning for businesses that are already suffering financially from shutdowns. Though owners are attempting to protect themselves, this is an unprecedented situation that the Courts will have to face, and responses may vary state to state. In April, Georgia was at the forefront of the push to reopen. On April 24, 2020 Georgia Governor Brian Kemp issued an order reopening certain businesses including hair salons. The salons that have chosen to reopen have set up strict protocols. For example, a single customer may be allowed in a shop at a time and customers must agree to temperature checks before being permitted to enter. Focus on sanitary conditions is even more stringent than usual, and employees and clients must wear masks. Nevertheless, business owners are still concerned with potential litigation if either an employee or customer was to contract the virus. A...
Employee Privacy during COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York

Employee Privacy during COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York

By Michael Brumbach, Lisa Grandner and Andrew Ho. As America starts to get back to our new “normal”, some employers have already been taking precautions for the reopening of America’s businesses. Such precautions have included mask requirements, staggered work schedules, and temperature/fever tests. However, businesses may now find themselves in possession of health information and must keep in mind that there are significant legal ramifications when handling employee (or other) health data. With this in mind, the following article includes recommendations from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding COVID-19, as well as laws to look out for when dealing with employee health data. The most glaring protections of employee health data stem from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, otherwise known as HIPAA.  However, recent developments in New York law, namely the SHIELD ACT, may have created new consequences for businesses that fail to properly protect their employee’s health information. HIPAA requires that employers keep medical records confidential, and isolate medical records from files that employees such as supervisors or managers may access. This information includes: health insurance documents, requests for medical leaves of absence, FMLA reports, documentation regarding the underlying matters for FMLA paperwork, physician’s examination reports, medically-related excuses for absenteeism, medical job restrictions, accident and injury reports, worker’s compensation reports, and any other document that contains private medical information about an employee. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that all medical information, including COVID-19 related documentation, for employees be stored separately from the employee’s personnel file. Businesses may maintain logs of temperature results, but they must keep this information confidential. However,...
Marc Pillinger Joins Esteemed Panelists on The SIP

Marc Pillinger Joins Esteemed Panelists on The SIP

Marc Pillinger, executive partner at Pillinger Miller Tarallo, LLP has been a practicing attorney for over 35 years. He is a noteworthy and prominent attorney in the areas of Construction, Labor Law and environmental and toxic torts and is listed in Who’s Who in Environmental Law and Kipling’s Who’s Who. Marc is a lecturer for the New York State Bar Association, N.Y.S. Academy of Trial Lawyers, Environmental Committee of CLM, numerous insurance carriers and brokers and the Insurance Society of Philadelphia. Marc participated as part of an esteemed panel on “The SIP” (Serious Insurance Podcast) for an in-depth discussion on topics affecting the construction and real estate risk industry during COVID-19. Marc’s input towards the legal environment surrounding this pandemic is captured in this interview. Other panelists include: Carolyn Farino (Head of Insurance, Americas Lendlease), Leslie Curry (Executive VP, Alliant) and Naresh Dade (VP, Marsh). The SIP is hosted by Zach Howell and strives to bring together diverse perspectives that exist amongst industry leaders across various brokerages, insurance carriers and risk management departments in Real Estate and Construction. The shows format is to discuss complex risk topics in a conversational way for both young industry and non-industry professionals in a way which can be easily comprehended. You can follow The SIP on LinkedIn here https://www.linkedin.com/company/thesip/   Watch the...
May Updates to Workers’ Compensation Rules and Procedures – New Jersey, New York and  Pennsylvania

May Updates to Workers’ Compensation Rules and Procedures – New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania

By Charlene Stewart Barnaba and Anthony M. Napoli. During the COVID-19 Outbreak, many of us may be directly affected by the coronavirus, experiencing financial hardships, working remotely and practicing social distancing. This includes claimants seeking workers’ compensation benefits and attorneys as well as judges and staff. However, this presents new challenges to keep everyone safe and healthy while still conducting business before the Board. In PMT’s continuing efforts to keep you informed, below are some of the recent updates in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey which we feel are important for you to know. Please use these links to view how it’s affected your state: New York, Pennsylvania & New Jersey New York May Updates to Workers’ Compensation Rules and Procedures Below are some highlights of the updated NYS Workers’ Compensation Board emergency amendments, adopted in April 2020. The Board’s specific Response can be found at its website: http://www.wcb.ny.gov/content/main/TheBoard/WCBcovidresponse4-20.pdf In situations where payers are not sure if a claim is compensable, they are encouraged by the Board to consider issuing payment without initially accepting liability, rather than disputing the claim. Telemedicine and telephonic visits in some circumstances for social distancing purposes are permitted. Deadlines have been extended for healthcare providers to obtain authorizations for certain medications. New nature and cause of injury codes are now available in response to the pandemic and the Injury Description Tables have been updated to reflect this specific coding. The use of email, rather than fax, should be utilized for the efficient transference of communication and information. Injured workers need not demonstrate attachment to the labor market to continue receiving partial disability payments...
Cybersecurity: Be Vigilant and Be Prepared

Cybersecurity: Be Vigilant and Be Prepared

By Nicole Duke and Thomas M. Bona. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way society lives and conducts business. The rapid and unprecedented shift to remote working has opened businesses to new dangers and liabilities. One of the most pressing of these dangers is the increased risk of cyber attack. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has called attention to an increase in cyber-crime activity, targeting overburdened information technology systems and vulnerable work from home remote setups.  Further, the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has published a formal alert that cyber-criminals are targeting individuals and businesses through email and phishing scams. These phishing emails contain false updates and information regarding COVID-19 that an employee may open, exposing the system to risk. In addition to phishing scams, employees working remotely may log in using less secure hardware and software than an office setting provides, which may provide an easier pathway for cyber-criminals to enter a system. Employers should also be aware that with a majority of employees logging in remotely, it is easier for a cyber-criminal or “hacker” to blend in and secretly access systems. This leaves not only employer data at risk of being stolen, but sensitive client data as well. No business is immune to this increased risk of cyber attack, and high profile organizations have already suffered as a result of cyber-crime. One such example is the cyber attack on a medical facility tasked with working on a COVID-19 vaccine, leading to the publication of sensitive patient data. Businesses should plan a response to possible cyber attacks and consider the difficulty in...
Unprecedented Business Disruptions Caused by the COVID-19 Crisis

Unprecedented Business Disruptions Caused by the COVID-19 Crisis

By Daniel O. Dietchweiler  and Marc H. Pillinger. Unprecedented business disruptions caused by the COVID-19 crisis have shuttered many non-essential businesses including retail stores, restaurants, office buildings, and other commercial premises. These are extraordinary times and the government has heightened protections relating to transmission of the virus during this pandemic by taking extraordinary measures. As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, businesses should carefully consider the issues that are likely to play a significant role in the short and long term which may be the subject of disputes and litigation to come. Early retention of counsel to assess these issues may help to reduce litigation risk. The COVID-19 crisis has undermined stock markets, dropped bond markets to historically low yields, and threatens to undermine the world economy in ways not seen since the Great Depression. It is fair to foresee our society undergoing devastating economic dislocation both in the commercial sector and to consumers. As a result, some state and local governments have imposed emergency measures intended to separate people in an effort to mitigate transmission of the virus. Many businesses in the “non-essential” service sector have shifted from office based business operations to remote home based work environments. Though this creates a safer environment for our society to work through this crisis, it nevertheless will result in contractions throughout the economy generally. Thus, businesses may face threats to their very existence and in such times, this crisis may lead struggling businesses to make first party claims for business interruption under their existing policies. Business interruption coverage is added to a commercial property policy when an...