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Posts Tagged ‘#COVID19’

Georgia Governor Passes Order Altering Inspection Regulations for Construction of Hospitals and Other Projects During COVID-19 Emergency

Posted on: April 8th, 2020

By: Tom Ward

On March 30, 2020, Governor Brian Kemp issued an executive order that applies to the plan review and inspection requirements for the construction of hospitals, ambulatory health care centers, nursing homes, jails, penal institutions, airports, buildings or structures that impact national or state homeland security, or any building defined as a high-rise building in the State Minimum Standards Code. Under this executive order, the builders of such projects are allowed to immediately use private professional providers to review plans or inspect projects under O.C.G.A. 8-2-26(g)(4)-(5).

The March 30 executive order actually amends the provisions of an earlier executive order, and the texts of both orders can be accessed by this link (https://gov.georgia.gov/executive-action/executive-orders/2020-executive-orders).

Special fees apply to private plan review and inspection. Those fees are set by the local permitting authority.

Moreover, only the local permitting authority can issue the certificate of occupancy, so it is imperative to hire only qualified and experienced private inspectors who will pay special attention to the documentation required by the local building official for issuance of the certificate of occupancy.

Free public access to the full text of O.C.G.A. 8-2-26(g) can be accessed via LexisNexis using the following link: http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/gacode/default.asp  

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include COVID-19’s impact on finances and loans, the FFCRA, the CARES Act and more. Click here to view upcoming webinars.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients.  Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments.  For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER:  The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19.  The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement.  We can only give legal advice to clients.  Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG.  An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest.  As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such.  We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.**

Ready Camera One: Remote Litigation in the Era of Social Distancing

Posted on: April 7th, 2020

By: Jennifer Adair, Jennifer Markowski and Andy Treese

Evaluating claims to move them towards resolution or trial is the lifeblood of a defense practice. This typically requires direct interaction with a plaintiff and key witnesses, either at deposition (to hear their testimony, to form impressions of how they will be received by a jury), at mediation (to assure the plaintiff personally understands the strengths and weaknesses of the case), or at trial.  In person interaction is simply not as practical as it used to be and, in some places, it might be illegal.  It is not surprising that we have been fielding inquiries from claims professionals and their insureds about whether we can continue to move their cases forward by conducting discovery and settling claims in an age of social distancing. 

The answer is yes.  At Freeman Mathis & Gary our attorneys routinely take depositions remotely and have had great success with remote mediation.  Both, however, carry their own practical considerations.

  • Depositions.  Remote depositions have been around for well over a decade, but the increased demand is changing the marketplace.  Many lawyers who have never used or have avoided remote deposition technology no longer have a practical choice.  Some are adapting more quickly than others:  we have seen some opposing counsel take clean, effective depositions by video, but we have also seen opposing counsel take depositions that were not effective due to lack of familiarity with the technology and/or a misunderstanding of the different methodologies necessary to prepare for a remote deposition.  Counsel should consider several factors when preparing for and conducting an online deposition: 
    • Is this a deposition you are willing to take remotely?  Minor witnesses, some experts, or witnesses in cases with low exposure can probably be deposed remotely without concern.  Depending on the facts and exposure associated with the case, there may be some witnesses you may simply want to depose in person, even if it delays the case for 45-60 days. 
    • Prepare for your deposition at least two days early.  Identify the exhibits you are certain to use at the deposition and assure they can be presented cleanly to the witness.   For those that are obvious (complaint, incident report, interrogatory responses, etc.) consider having them pre-marked and distributed by email to opposing counsel, the witness and court reporter to speed the deposition along.  Also, identify documents you may want to use (medical records, photographs, etc.) and have those available and ready to present during the deposition. These can be circulated by email and shown to the participants using the screen sharing function of most videoconferencing technology.
    • Understand the technology. What program will be used? How will exhibits be presented?  Have you tested the video conferencing software or any other technology you need to use during the deposition?  How does the audio system work (i.e. can more than one person speak at a time or would an objection by counsel also inadvertently mute the witness’ microphone)?
    • Consider the logistics of the oath.  Who will place the witness under oath and where will they be?  Does your state permit oaths to be administered remotely?  Consider making a formal stipulation on the record that, due to the pandemic, the parties agree to the sufficiency of an oath administered remotely.
    • Decide how objections will be handled.  If it suits your purpose strategically, you and opposing counsel may choose to reserve some objections that would typically be made on the record.
    • Understand the cost and the final product.  How much is the vendor charging for this deposition as opposed to a standard deposition?  Are they generating a traditional transcript or is the deposition also being recorded?
    • Make a plan for confidentiality. If the witness is your client, plan in advance how you will communicate (by email, texting, etc.) during the course of the deposition to avoid inadvertent disclosures. Make sure you know how to turn off your camera and microphone or, better yet, go into another room to converse with your client.
    • Expect the deposition to take longer than usual. Don’t allow logistical limitations to curtail zealous representation.
  • Mediations.  Mediation and other forms of ADR are effective because a knowledgeable, competent mediator can provide litigants and their counsel on both sides a “reality check” as to the strengths and weaknesses of their cases.  The process works better when the mediator can speak directly to the parties and for that reason, our instinct in the past has been to require personal attendance at mediation.  So far, however, we have found remote mediation to make sense for several reasons:
    • Remote mediation is generally effective.   Some cases simply don’t settle until a mediator twists a metaphorical arm or two.   Is that effective when the literal arms aren’t in the same room as the mediator?   So far, anyway, the answer seems to be yes – when the technology works.  Where that is the case, mediators can still engage in private caucuses and have the ability to review or share exhibits, documents, etc. as needed.   We can envision specific cases where a video mediation might not be appropriate but so far, remote mediation has been getting cases resolved.
    • Remote mediations keep cases moving.  Governmental orders aside, many of our adjusters and risk managers have been restricted by their employers from non-essential travel for the foreseeable future.  Remote mediation presents a cost-effective opportunity to resolve cases now.
    • Remote mediation is cost effective (for now).  Most of our vendors are currently providing remote mediation services at no extra charge.  Remember, mediation centers are a business, too, and have a vested interest in keeping their dockets full by providing the technology and know-how to make mediation convenient to the parties, via Zoom or similar systems. 
    • Litigants may have a greater motivation to settle their claims when faced with the reality that jury trials for civil cases seem unlikely to take place for at least several months after state and local judicial emergencies resolve.
    • Attorneys want to keep cases moving, too. Counsel may view remote mediation as a step that can be taken towards trial.  Most courts already require ADR / mediation before trial.  Others are likely to being imposing that requirement to control their post-coronavirus dockets. 
    • Understand privacy issues related to the technology. Media reports suggest that Zoom and potentially other platforms are at risk for security issues.  Make sure the mediator provides a password for participants to gain access, and that meetings are locked so that nobody can join without the moderator’s permission. Ensure that the mediator has disabled the recording function, and that chat is not archived. Ask your mediator to send instructions in advance so that you are comfortable with the measures being taken, and can request any additional protections you deem appropriate.

At Freeman Mathis & Gary, our team will continue to monitor and report on the use of emerging technologies to litigate claims and obtain favorable outcomes for our clients.

Additional information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include COVID-19’s impact on finances and loans, the FFCRA, the CARES Act and more. Click here to register.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients. Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the Coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments. For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER: The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19. The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement. We can only give legal advice to clients. Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG. An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest. As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such. We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.**

Plaintiffs and Lawmakers Raise Bad Faith Issues in COVID-19 Claims

Posted on: April 3rd, 2020

By: Adrianna Michalska and Eric Retter

Every American is reminded daily that Coronavirus spreads easily and quickly. So has the impact on the insurance industry. How fast? Less than a month after the first U.S. death attributed to the virus on February 29, an insurer already faces a coverage and bad faith lawsuit over a COVID-19-related claim.

While the speed with which the first bad faith case arrived may be unexpected, there was little doubt such cases were coming. Other lawsuits hinted at such claims weeks ago, and state efforts to require carriers to pay business interruption claims—regardless of whether their policies actually cover such claims—may also lead to extra-contractual claims.

Restaurants are leading the charge

Several restaurants have sued their insurers, seeking declaratory judgments for potential business interruption claims in the wake of COVID-19. But Big Onion Tavern Group, LLC et. al. v. Society Insurance, Inc., filed March 27 in the Northern District of Illinois,features the first actual denial of such a claim, which prompted the boilerplate bad faith claim.

On March 15, 2020 Illinois Governor Pritzker ordered all restaurants, bars, and movie theaters to close. Executive Order 2020-07 posits that “frequently used surfaces in public settings, including bars and restaurants, if not cleaned and disinfected frequently and properly, also pose a risk of exposure.” One of the plaintiffs in the Big Onion case, Legacy Hospitality, operates a Chicago restaurant called The Vig. On March 20, Legacy asked Society Insurance to pay a claim resulting from the shutdown. Society denied the claim three days later. The denial stated that there was no direct physical loss or damage to property triggering either a business interruption or civil authority claim (Society also denied claims for spoilage and contamination in the denial letter, attached as an exhibit to the Complaint).

The other restaurant owners who are plaintiffs in the Big Onion do not attach denial letters as exhibits, but each alleges that its claims were similarly denied. All of the plaintiffs rely on an email from Society’s CEO and President dated March 16, averring that it indicates the insurer’s intent to deny all such claims without investigating them. (The last page of the email states that it is a “TEST EMAIL ONLY,” sent for the purpose of testing a draft message.)

Suits seeking declarations that these types of losses are covered have been filed in other jurisdictions. On March 30, our colleague Katie Cusack  reported on a declaratory judgment action that was filed in mid-March in a Louisiana state court by a New Orleans restaurant seeking a declaration of prospective coverage under a business interruption policy based upon events and losses that are not alleged to have occurred. [Cajun Conti, LLC, et al. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s London, et al., Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans, Louisiana].

Political pressure mounts

On the same day the Cajun Conti suit was filed, New Orleans TV station WWL4 reported that  Mayor LaToya Cantrell filed an emergency declaration in the same court. That order states that COVID-19 “caus(es) property loss and damage in certain circumstances.” If there were any doubt about her intentions to influence insurance payments, Mayor Cantrell announced that “[w]e have also been very aggressive as it relates to business interruption support and … insurance. We understand pandemic infections are not included in their insurance coverage, which makes this a priority for my administration to push for these reasons at the state and federal level.”

Mayor Cantrell is not the only politician aggressively pressuring insurers. New Jersey introduced a proposed bill in mid-March that would force insurers to cover business interruption insurance even if they expressly excluded virus and bacteria losses in their commercial property policies. Several states have proposed similar legislation, including New York, where Assemblyman Robert C. Carroll planted the notion that it would be “unconscionable” for insurers to rely on such exclusions after they received bailouts in 2008.

Massachusetts has also proposed such a law. Bill SD.2888 would construe any business interruption policy to include among the covered perils loss of use and occupancy, and business interruption directly or indirectly resulting from COVID-19. The bill would require this construction even when the policy contains express language excluding any losses “on account of (i) COVID-19 being a virus . . . ; or (ii) there being no physical damage to the property of the insured or to any other relevant property.”

Proponents of the Massachusetts bill go a step further by trying to tie the bill to Chapter 176D of the General Laws. Chapter 176D concerns Unfair Methods of Competition and Unfair and Deceptive Acts and Practices in the Business of Insurance. Along with Chapter 93A, it provides relief for bad faith handling of insurance claims. Together, the statutes allow for possible recovery of attorneys’ fees and even double or treble damages for knowing and willful violations.

To date, no state has yet passed bills into law that seek to override policy provisions precluding coverage for business interruptions claims associated with COVID-19. FMG will continue to monitor these bills along with other political efforts that impact the insurance industry and the construction of such provisions in particular.

The FMG #Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include employment issues, the real-world impact of business restrictions, education claims and more.

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include employment issues, the real-world impact of business restrictions, education claims and more. Click here to register.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients.  Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments.  For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER:  The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19.  The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement.  We can only give legal advice to clients.  Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG.  An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest.  As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such.  We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.**

Challenges Begin to Coronavirus “Shelter In Place” Ordinances

Posted on: March 31st, 2020

By:  William J. Linkous, III

On March 24, 2020 a corporation “engaged in the business of purchasing, trading, and selling firearms, ammunition, tools, and other defensive and safety supplies to law enforcement and civilians” filed one of the first lawsuits in Georgia challenging a local government’s “Shelter in Place” ordinance.  The lawsuit, Clyde Armory, Inc. v. Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County et al., Athens-Clarke County Superior Court, lists the government entity as a defendant, as well as both the City/County Manager and the City/County Attorney in their official capacity as additional defendants.  The ordinance challenge is being brought “as applied” to Plaintiff, as well as “as applied” to other gun stores within the Athens-Clarke County jurisdiction.  The lawsuit brings challenges under both the Georgia Constitution, and the Federal Constitution, the latter of which raises the specter that the suit may be removed from Superior Court to Federal Court.

The lawsuit alleges that on March 16, 2020, Governor Brian Kemp declared a state of emergency in Georgia due to the COVID-19 virus pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 38-3-51.  It goes on to allege that on March 19, 2020, Athens-Clarke County passed its “Shelter in Place” ordinance pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 38-3-28.  The lawsuit alleges that although the ordinance might be interpreted to list gun stores as “Essential Activities” under the ordinance’s definition section, gun stores are not clearly listed as “Essential Businesses” allowed to remain open as normal during the state of emergency.  Interestingly, the lawsuit alleges that the City/County website indicates that gun stores are “Essential Businesses” that can remain open, but that the website does not have the force of law.

Calling the ordinance a quarantine, the lawsuit seeks an emergency injunction and declaratory judgment declaring the ordinance as an ultra vires act and an abuse of police powers.  It alleges that the ordinance legislates in an area for which the State of Georgia has enacted general laws in violation of O.C.G.A. § 36-35-3 (a) and complains that the ordinance cannot be appealed in the same manner as violations of state health regulations under state law.  It alleges more specifically that O.C.G.A. § 31-12-2.1 grants the Georgia Department of Public Health the primary responsibility for responding to public health emergencies.  The Plaintiff goes on to allege that the ordinance violates the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution and the Georgia Constitution, citing to Old South Duck Tours v. Mayor and Aldermen of City of Savannah, 272 Ga. 869 (2000).  The suit also contends that the language of the ordinance is overly broad and vague as to the term “Essential Business” (citing Bullock v. City of Dallas, 248 Ga. 164 (1991)), that the ordinance creates arbitrary and capricious classifications, exceeds the scope of the City/County’s police powers, and violates the U.S. Second Constitutional Amendment right to bear arms, as well as the Georgia Constitution’s similar protections under Article I, Section I, Paragraph VIII.  The lawsuit includes hints at a wider challenge of such ordinances, citing to Bankers Life & Cas. Co. v. Crenshaw, 486 U.S. 71 (1988) and Truax v. Raich, 239 U.S. 33 (1915) for broader Due Process and Equal Protection concepts under the Fourteenth Amendment.

The lawsuit seeks a declaration that the ordinance is unlawful, and an injunction stopping its enforcement.  It also seeks a declaration that Plaintiff can carry on its business as normal as an “Essential Business,” and seeks attorneys’ fees and costs under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 but does not seek damages.  Ultimately, the resolution of this matter may come down to Federal law, perhaps to be decided in Federal Court.  The Georgia Supreme Court’s 2017 decision in Lathrop v. Deal, 301 Ga. 408 (2017) extended sovereign immunity to injunction and declaratory judgment claims against local governments where the constitutionality of their enactments is at issue, thus creating a possible barrier to the relief Plaintiff is seeking in the Clyde Armory case except as to the Federal claims.  Moreover, because in Georgia suits against local government officials in their official capacity are, in reality, suits against the local government itself, the inclusion of the local government Manager and Attorney would not seem to prevent the application of sovereign immunity to the claims.  In any event, it will be interesting to see whether the COVID-19 crisis ends before the Court can issue a definitive ruling in the Clyde Armory case.

Another lawsuit has been filed in Texas, challenging a “Shelter in Place” order issued by the Mayor of McKinney, Texas, although the basis of that lawsuit appears to be conflicting provisions of pandemic orders.  Last week, the NRA and other Second Amendment groups filed a Federal lawsuit in California to stop instances where local officials interpreted Governor Gavin Newsom’s “Shelter in Place” orders as making gun stores “non-essential.”  In addition, a coalition of gun-rights activists filed a lawsuit earlier this week against New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy under the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution for closing gun stores and suspending legally required background checks amid the pandemic.  The same activists are considering whether to file lawsuits against other states and cities that have deemed firearms retailers as “non-essential.”  Interestingly, according to news reports, guns sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic, while crime rates have dropped, particularly in large cities.  Abortion rights groups have also reportedly filed suit in Texas to keep abortion clinics from being designated as “non-essential” businesses.  Local government officials and attorneys should pay close attention as these lawsuits progress, and evaluate their orders and ordinances accordingly.

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include the CCPA, the CARES Act, Law Enforcement and the viruses’ impact on the Construction Industry. Click here to register.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients.  Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments.  For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER:  The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19.  The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement.  We can only give legal advice to clients.  Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG.  An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest.  As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such.  We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.** 

Telemedicine in a Time of Crisis

Posted on: March 31st, 2020

By: Shaun Daugherty

Social distancing has become a new phrase in our lexicon which has specific meaning and pervasive general understanding within the population.  Telemedicine seems like the ideal format for delivery of certain medical services during the emergency period caused by COVID-19.  However, pre-emergency regulations, restrictions and requirements for qualification and reimbursement to telehealth providers greatly reduced access to these kinds of services.  The CARES Act has taken aim at suspending many of these prior limitations on access and reimbursements to open much needed medical care to those that are in the most need. 

During the existence of the current medical emergency, Medicare beneficiaries are temporarily granted access to telemedicine services in several ways.  Previously, to provide medical services via telemedicine, the provider must have seen and treated the patient within the last three years.  In addition, the pre-emergency restrictions also required stringent real-time audio-visual technology be available on both ends of the service.  The new law temporary lifts and eases these restrictions and opens up the options for services to a broader base of patient.  Now, both new patients and existing patients can take advantage of telemedicine.  No longer does one need to be an established patient for a telemedicine visit.  Additionally, the provider does not have to be compliant with the strict real-time audio-visual requirements as before and things such as FaceTime or Skype calls are permissible. In certain instances, audio only visits are allowed as long as no images are being reviewed.  This is especially useful in those places where there may be limitations in the technology available as well as the functional limitations of those receiving the care. 

The new law temporarily allows for hospice recertification without a face-to-face visit and home dialysis patients to receive periodic evaluations using the telehealth technologies.  The geographic or location restrictions for providers of telemedicine services are also temporarily lifted.  Previously, the regulations limited reimbursements for Rural Health Clinics (RHC) and Federally Qualified Health Clinics (FQHC) to only those services defined as a face-to-face encounter.  The current Act lifts these restrictions and allows for Medicare to reimburse for telemedicine services provided by these RHCs and FQHCs.  The Act also provides the HHS Secretary with the authority to relax additional statutory restrictions on telehealth services to be covered by Medicare. 

Of the $2 trillion total allocated in the CARES Act, $14.4 billion has been specifically earmarked to increase the access of telemedicine to patients of the Veterans Administration facilities throughout the country.  An additional $2.15 billion has been allocated to the Department of Veterans Affairs Information Technology to improve the infrastructure and increase the capabilities to deliver these types of healthcare services.  This is on top of the $27 billion allocated to the HHS’ Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund to address increased access and infrastructure for telehealth generally. 

Opening the access to telemedicine services will hopefully help reduce the current strain on the healthcare communities by allowing providers to access patients remotely without exposing themselves or their patients to risks that could be avoided.  Those patients in remote or otherwise restricted locations can be screened and, in some instances, treated with the use of a smartphone.   While these measures are only temporary, the hope of many organizations that promote telemedicine is that it will pave the way for a more meaningful method of delivery of telemedicine services into the future. 

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include the CCPA, the CARES Act, Law Enforcement and the viruses’ impact on the Construction Industry. Click here to register.

FMG has formed a Coronavirus Task Force to provide up-to-the-minute information, strategic advice, and practical solutions for our clients.  Our group is an interdisciplinary team of attorneys who can address the multitude of legal issues arising out of the coronavirus pandemic, including issues related to Healthcare, Product Liability, Tort Liability, Data Privacy, and Cyber and Local Governments.  For more information about the Task Force, click here.

You can also contact your FMG relationship partner or email the team with any questions at [email protected].

**DISCLAIMER:  The attorneys at Freeman Mathis & Gary, LLP (“FMG”) have been working hard to produce educational content to address issues arising from the concern over COVID-19.  The webinars and our written material have produced many questions. Some we have been able to answer, but many we cannot without a specific legal engagement.  We can only give legal advice to clients.  Please be aware that your attendance at one of our webinars or receipt of our written material does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and FMG.  An attorney-client relationship will not exist unless and until an FMG partner expressly and explicitly states IN WRITING that FMG will undertake an attorney-client relationship with you, after ascertaining that the firm does not have any legal conflicts of interest.  As a result, you should not transmit any personal or confidential information to FMG unless we have entered into a formal written agreement with you.  We will continue to produce education content for the public, but we must point out that none of our webinars, articles, blog posts, or other similar material constitutes legal advice, does not create an attorney client relationship and you cannot rely on it as such.  We hope you will continue to take advantage of the conferences and materials that may pertain to your work or interests.**