Experienced Coronavirus Counsel
Harris Bricken has been advising clients on legal issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic since the virus first struck Wuhan in December 2019. With offices in China, the U.S. West Coast, and Spain, our firm has been on the frontlines of the worldwide response, with our lawyers and clients experiencing conditions in the most affected locations in real-time.
Whether in our China, Spain, or US offices, our lawyers already have engaged with a myriad of legal and non-legal issues relating to the coronavirus, both for our clients and our own families. We have been writing about the coronavirus and its impacts almost non-stop since January and we have created a separate coronavirus section on our blogs (here and here) with our latest insight and commentary. Leading media have taken notice of our deep experience with coronavirus business and law issues and interviewed and quoted our lawyers in The Economist, Financial Times, Indiana Lawyer, Corporate Counsel, EuropaPress and Cinco Días.
As soon as it became evident that COVID-19 would be an unprecedented event of global proportions, our firm established an international cross-practice team to assist affected businesses with the following issues:
Medical Product Purchases from Overseas (PPE)
Within days of the first news of the coronavirus we formed a special team of our international manufacturing lawyers to handle the supply chain, contract and payment issues relating to the worldwide demand and supply of PPE, and we’ve been working on such deals ever since. For more on the risks buyers of these products invariably face and the various methods for minimizing those risks please check out Buying Face Masks and Other PPE from China: Not For the Faint of Heart and Buying Face Masks and Other PPE from China Just Got a LOT Tougher.
With economies around the world being battered, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of companies wanting to change, abandon, or sue on their contracts across all areas of economic activity, including employment, product supply, real estate and insurance contracts. Many of these matters center around whether the coronavirus outbreak constitutes force majeure or creates an impossibility of performance or a frustration of purpose that excuses a party from its contractual obligations. Our firm’s expertise in COVID-19 force majeure issues has been recognized by the Economist, the Financial Times, Corporate Counsel, Spain’s EuropaPress, and Cinco Días.
In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the breakdown in the global supply chain has become even more severe. Many of our clients are American (North, Central and South), European, and Australian companies that stand in the middle of this now-broken global supply chain, leaving them in precarious positions between their suppliers and customers. Our lawyers are formulating mitigation strategies that limit client exposure to these negative effects and pursuing and defending lawsuits stemming from the coronavirus.
Our lawyers are helping clients with COVID-19 real estate matters, including contractual force majeure, frustration of purpose, and impossibility claims asserted by tenants and buyers. We are also helping commercial landlords deal with requirements related to protecting the safety and health of their tenants and the public and in monitoring changing national and local laws relating to rent relief and evictions.
Most of our clients have a multitude of employment law matters arising from the coronavirus and its concomitant economic downturn. To alleviate economic pressures, employers may be considering terminating staff, which is always precarious in jurisdictions with generous employee protections, such as California, China and Spain. Work hour and wage reductions may be useful measures to weather the crisis, but applicable laws and the specific contracts and employment policies involved will determine the optimal path forward.
Employers now also have the increased responsibility to ensure workplace safety in the face of a global pandemic, giving rise to related legal issues, such as provision of masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE). We have worked with many companies to establish remote work policies, requiring the simultaneous consideration of issues affecting productivity, morale, health, travel, immigration status, benefits, and work equipment, as well as the legal sufficiency of shifting important events to an online setting.
Losses tied to the coronavirus outbreak are leading to restructurings and bankruptcies in varied industries and all around the world. The uncertainty surrounding the outbreak’s potential effects and duration on a company’s value are complicated and delay essential reorganizations and critical asset sales necessary for helping companies supplement diminished cash flows. With most courts now operating at limited capacity, companies need contingency plans to determine how to work with lenders and business partners in the short- and long-term.
Many businesses do not consider existing insurance coverage as a potential mitigator of diminished revenue from COVID-19. Some business insurance policies have “business interruption” coverage for this event including “supply chain” and “event cancellation” coverage. Our attorneys have been assisting businesses that operate both domestically and abroad by analyzing their insurance contracts to determine whether they have coverage and to stand firm against insurance companies that seek to deny coverage. We are also working with businesses affected by the coronavirus that are considering how to insure against similar misfortunes in the future.
Not surprisingly, the coronavirus has spurred all sorts of new litigation and our litigation team has been handling such matters almost since day one. From supply chains to real estate to insurance coverage to injuries on cruise ships, to pretty much all sorts of coronavirus litigation in between, our global litigation team has you covered.
COVID-19 has impacted the cannabis industry uniquely. Many states have designated medical and even recreational cannabis sales as “essential” services and cannabis businesses have seen a sudden increase in sales as consumers rush to stockpile products. State and local authorities have been promulgating “emergency” rules and our lawyers have been busy with compliance-related questions, employment issues, real estate concerns, and everything down the line related to cannabis. On the hemp side, planting season is just around the corner and most supply chains are at great risk of disruption by COVID-19. Everything from biomass transactions to retail sales of CBD products will change in 2020 and we expect a corresponding uptick in cannabis litigation as well.
Preparation and Mitigation
Whether dealing with a global supply chain or a restaurant lease in Madrid, no company should become a passive victim of the COVID-19 pandemic by doing nothing. As you face the reality of your situation, if you assess your contractual and factual realities, make a plan to solve or alleviate those problems, and then implement that plan, you will weather the storm better than most companies. Like our existing clients, we can help you build and execute your best plan going forward.