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COVID-19 INFORMATION AND RESOURCES

Richard H. Glucksman, Esq.
Brian D. Kahn, Esq.

INTRODUCTION

The current COVID-19 health crisis has greatly impacted nearly every aspect of our business and personal lives. The constant flow of rapidly evolving, and often contradictory information creates its own challenges for those who are responsible for ensuring compliance with relevant regulations and best practices while still moving forward with their business and family activities.

This bulletin differs from most Chapman, Glucksman, Dean & Roeb bulletins in that it does not highlight a recent case, statute or a single development, but rather acts as a resource and “links” to provide you with needed information and to simplify your search for critical information during this unusual and challenging time.

CIVIL LITIGATION:  CLOSURES AND RESTRICTIONS

The State and Federal Court systems in California have drastically reduced their operations. The Governor issued Executive Order N-38-20, this suspends certain limitations on the Chief Justice’s authority, making it possible for orders to be issued adapting the Court’s operations to address the COVID-19 health crisis. As of this time, the most recent statewide order from the Chief Justice is the March 30, 2020 Order which allows Courts to utilize remote technology when possible. The March 30, 2020 Order also clarifies a prior Order suspending all trials for 60 days. As many of you are aware, civil trials in California must commence within five years of the initiation of the action, this is commonly referred to as the “five year rule”. While the five year time period was initially extended by the Chief Justice for 60 days, the Judicial Council subsequently adopted a series of Emergency Rules, including one which extends this to six months for all civil actions filed on or before April 6, 2020. The Judicial Council also adopted rules tolling the statutes of limitation for civil causes of action are tolled from April 6, 2020 to 90 days after the state of emergency has ended.

In addition to the statewide orders and rules, counties have enacted their own rules. Los Angeles Superior Court, for instance, has closed some locations while others remain open on a limited basis. On March 17, 2020 an Order was issued limiting the Court to “essential functions” through April 16, 2020. However, on April 15, 2020, a further Order extended the closure through May 12, 2020. While truly urgent Ex Partes may go forward, all regularly set hearings will be continued until after June 22, 2020. Trials will begin after June 22, 2020 with non-priority trials anticipated to start in later August or September. Notably, any deadlines imposed by current trial or hearing dates still stand until the specific dates are continued.

As with other aspects of the COVID-19 health crisis, the impact upon Civil Litigation continues to evolve, for the most up to date information we include the following links to the California Courts. The first page includes links to all the State and County Orders, the second page is for the Judicial Council Rules.
Links:

https://newsroom.courts.ca.gov/news/court-emergency-orders-6794321

https://newsroom.courts.ca.gov/news/judicial-branch-emergency-actions-criminal-civil-and-juvenile-justice

STATE AND LOCAL STAY AT HOME ORDERS

The State of California declared a state of emergency on March 4, 2020. On March 13, 2020 the President declared a national state of emergency. On March 19, 2020 Governor Newsom issued Executive Order N-33-20, also known as the “Stay at Home” order. This orders all Californian’s to stay at home, unless they are part of an essential businesses are exempt which generally includes construction and insurance. Generally, Californians are allowed to run essential errands, but they are not to congregate with those outside of their household.

In addition to the State, many cities and counties have enacted additional orders regarding whether certain types of businesses can remain open, use of parks, trails and other public amenities as well as what type of protective measures must be adhered to such as covering your face in public. As with Civil Litigation, the State and Local Government regulations continue to evolve. A link to the State’s COVID-19 page is below and we also encourage you to check your local City and County sites for additional information.

https://covid19.ca.gov/

BUSINESS AND FINANCIAL GUIDELINES

The impact of COVID-19 is unprecedented. While “essential businesses” may remain open for customers, steps must be taken to protect the health of both employees and customers. There are both State and, in many instances, Local Government regulations addressing these precautions. In addition to taking safety measures to protect the health of all involved, there are a multitude of financial concerns to be addressed. While most people have already heard about the moratorium on residential and commercial evictions, this does little to address how property owners will receive funds to pay their financial obligations, how tenants can pay their other obligations, how either can make payroll and most importantly, how employees who can no longer work due to their “non-essential” business being closed can put food on their tables.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES” act) may provide financial relief for many business by means of loans, some of which may be forgivable, and tax credits. The CARES act also modifies the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) to provide paid leave for those who cannot work due to COVID-19 as well as other benefits. The IRS has extended the deadline to file and pay taxes to July 15, 2020. Additionally, there are other Federal and State benefits which may be available for those whose jobs are impacted.

The financial impacts of COVID-19 are far reaching and continue to evolve. The Department of Insurance ordered insurance companies to return premiums for at least the months of March and April. This applies to certain lines of insurance where the risk of loss has fallen substantially. However, business interruption, environmental and pollution claims have increased exponentially. While most such policies require some physical damage in order to trigger an occurrence, there has been some discussion of legislation deeming the COVID-19 pandemic to fulfill the physical damage requirement.

If your business has been closed or impacted by COVID-19 we encourage you to review your insurance policies and key contracts to ascertain what your rights and obligations are as well as whether you may have any coverage for your losses. Just as importantly, speak with your business partners including vendors, customers and employees to ascertain their capabilities and willingness to work through this crisis.

US Department of Labor OSHA Guidelines:

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/covid-19/

California Labor & Workforce Development Agency Resource Page:

https://www.labor.ca.gov/coronavirus2019/

https://www.edd.ca.gov/about_edd/coronavirus-2019.htm

CONSTRUCTION GUIDELINES

Many of our clients are involved in the construction industry. Construction has been deemed an essential activity and is exempt from many of the “stay at home” orders but certain protections and regulations still apply. In addition to the general workplace guidelines discussed above certain jurisdictions are providing guidance as to how to provide a safe construction site workplace. We have included a link the Los Angeles Department Building and Safety guidelines below.
However, in some instances work on a project may be delayed or may not be able to progress due to the project owner stopping work or the inability of subcontractors or suppliers to continue as originally intended. In this case one should review their contracts to see what justifies delay and inability to perform by either party and the impact thereof. Contracts should also be evaluated to ascertain whether the costs associated with compliance with the new COVID-19 regulations are a recoverable cost under the contract. As with the general business discussion above, contractors should review all available insurance, including builder’s risk to ascertain the existence of possible coverage.

LA DBS guidelines:

https://ladbs.org/docs/default-source/publications/misc-publications/construction-site-guidance.pdf

SUMMARY

The COVID-19 health crisis has had and, for the foreseeable future, will have a broad and severe impact on our society. The variety of evolving regulations on the Federal, State and Local Government levels make it challenging to comply, especially for businesses in operation. There are also a variety of resources available to help ensure compliance with these regulations as well as the financial and physical viability of our communities’ companies and employees. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you need any assistance in navigating these rules and resources.