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Posts Tagged ‘Pandemic’

FINRA In-Person Hearings Further Postponed Until July 31

Posted on: May 20th, 2020

By: Kathleen Cusack and Kirsten Patzer

On Friday, May 15, 2020, amidst continued concern over the potential spread of COVID-19, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) postponed all in-person arbitration and mediation proceedings until July 31, 2020. FINRA initially postponed in-person meetings beginning in March and extended the suspension several times. 

In its most recent announcement, FINRA also offered to waive the postponement fee if parties agree to reschedule in-person hearings currently scheduled between July 31 and September 4, 2020. All other case deadlines continue to apply. 

As an alternative to in-person meetings, videoconferencing or telephonic meetings are permissible if requested by parties or if mandated by arbitrators. This option is reportedly unpopular and infrequently utilized. And when it has been utilized, the outcomes are subject to scrutiny and may lead to awards being overturned.

A recent FINRA award has resulted in Wunderlich Securities, Inc. filing an action in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York asking that the $11.4 million award issued against them in March be vacated after the final hearing was held via Zoom. According to Wunderlich, the panel had been inattentive throughout the entire proceeding, held over the course of 9 sessions, with the final session being the only one not held in person. During the Zoom videoconference, one arbitrator would look at other screens, typing, and eating during testimony, another arbitrator completely blocked her screen, and during closing arguments, one of the panelists completely walked away from his screen. After the final hearing Wunderlich filed a motion requesting that the panel recuse itself. That motion was unanimously denied by the panel.

The original FINRA arbitration was Dominick & Dickerman LLC, Michael John Campbell v. Wunderlich Securities, Inc., available here. The Petition to Vacate for that case, available here.  

If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Kirsten Patzer at [email protected] or Kathleen Cusack at [email protected]

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis.  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.**

Requests for Compassionate Release in the Era of COVID-19

Posted on: May 4th, 2020

By: Curt Graham

Correctional facilities across the country are facing unique challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some facilities have already reduced inmate populations in an effort to curb its effects. Additionally, courts are receiving an unprecedented number of requests for early release or modified sentences. A recent opinion from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky examined an inmate’s request for a compassionate release due to coronavirus concerns.

In United States v. Cornett, No. 7:10-2-KKC, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68878 (E.D. Ky. Apr. 20, 2020), an inmate filed an emergency motion for immediate release and argued his correctional institution was not taking adequate steps to protect prisoners from the virus. His motion was denied, as the Court found the inmate had not exhausted his administrative rights under the First Step Act of 2018. The First Step Act permits prisoners to file a motion for compassionate release on their own (as opposed to the Bureau of Prisons filing one on their behalf), but only if the prisoner has first “fully exhausted all administrative rights to appeal a failure of the Bureau of Prisons to bring a motion on the defendant’s behalf or if 30 days have lapsed since the warden of the defendant’s facility received the defendant’s request to file a motion on his behalf, whichever is earlier.”). Finding the exhaustion requirements were jurisdictional, the Court rejected the argument that these requirements should be waived in light of the dangers posed by COVID-19.

The Cornett opinion emphasized that in these unsettling times, “the exhaustion requirement of the compassionate release statute is perhaps most important,” because the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is better positioned than the courts to first assess issues such as a defendant’s health, the adequacy of the measures taken by a particular place of incarceration to address any health risks, the risk presented to the public by a defendant’s release, and the adequacy of a defendant’s release plan.” The Court also observed that the BOP has begun a review of all inmates who have COVID-19 risk factors to determine which inmates are suitable for home confinement.

Given the ongoing COVID-19 concerns, courts will undoubtedly be flooded with similar requests for early release. However, statutory exhaustion requirements may bar such requests before they are ever heard on their merits. 

FMG attorneys Wesley Jackson, Ashley Hobson and Curt Graham will be presenting a webinar on Wednesday, May 13, 2020 from 1:00 – 2:15 p.m. EST entitled “COVID-19 in Custody: Practical Tips and Liability Considerations.” They will be joined by Edward Sweeney of Sweeney Corrections Consulting. This webinar will offer an in-depth discussion of the CDC Guidance on Management of COVID-19 in Correctional and Detention Facilities and will address various legal considerations relating to COVID-19 in the correctional setting.

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include real estate issues, protecting business interruption losses, 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.**

Governor Kemp Issues Executive Order Reopening Certain Businesses in Georgia

Posted on: April 22nd, 2020

By: Andrew Kim

On April 20, 2020, Governor Kemp signed an Executive Order that will impact certain businesses in Georgia. The new Executive Order reopens some businesses previously closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic and removes certain restrictions for other types of businesses as well.

Here are some key provisions:

Health-Related Practices and Services Not Subject to Minimum Basic Operations Restrictions:

The following practices and services are not subject to the Minimum Basic Operations restrictions. Instead, these practices and services “should consider implementing the operational guidelines provided in Executive Order 04.02.20.01 for Critical Infrastructure:”

  • Medical practices
  • Dental practices
  • Orthodontics practices
  • Optometry practices
  • Physical therapists
  • Ambulatory Surgical Centers
  • Physicians performing elective surgeries
  • Healthcare Institutions
  • Medical Facilities
  • Any and all other healthcare-related practices and services that have elected to cease operations because of the spread of COVID-19.

The Executive Order urges these practices and services begin treating patients as soon as possible in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services guidelines, and the provisions of his April 20, 2020 Executive Order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Reopening of Certain Businesses Effective April 24, 2020:

The Executive Order reopens the following businesses on Friday, April 24, 2020:

  • Gyms
  • Fitness Centers
  • Bowling Alleys
  • Body Art Studios
  • Businesses registered pursuant to Code Sections 43-10-11 and 43-10-18
    • Beauty Shops
    • Beauty Salons
    • Barber Shops
    • Schools of Cosmetology
    • Schools of Hair Design
    • Schools of Esthetics
    • Schools of Nail Care
    • Schools of Barbering
  • Individuals who, for compensation, engage in the practice of esthetics (massages, trims, dyeing, etc.), or cosmetic skincare.
  • Hair Designers
  • Persons who practice Massage Therapy

However, these businesses must implement the following in-person Minimum Basic Operations in order to reopen:

  1. Screening and evaluating workers who exhibit signs of illness, such as a fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, cough, or shortness of breath;
  2. Requiring workers who exhibit signs of illness to not report to work or to seek medical attention;
  3. Enhancing sanitation of the workplace as appropriate;
  4. Requiring hand washing or sanitation by workers at appropriate places within the business location;
  5. Providing personal protective equipment as available and appropriate to the function and location of the worker within the business location;
  6. Prohibiting gatherings of workers during working hours;
  7. Permitting workers to take breaks and lunch outside, in their office or personal workspace, or in such other areas where proper social distancing is attainable;
  8. Implementing teleworking for all possible workers;
  9. Implementing staggered shifts for all possible workers;
  10. Holding all meetings and conferences virtually, wherever possible;
  11. Delivering intangible services remotely wherever possible;
  12. Discouraging workers from using other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment;
  13. Prohibiting handshaking and other unnecessary person-to-person contact in the workplace;
  14. Placing notices that encourage hand hygiene at the entrance to the workplace and in other workplace areas where they are likely to be seen;
  15. Suspending the use of Personal Identification Number (PIN) pads, PIN entry devices, electronic signature capture, and any other credit card receipt signature requirements to the extent such suspension is permitted by agreements with credit card companies and credit agencies;
  16. Enforcing social distancing for non-cohabitating persons on their property;
  17. For retailers and service providers, providing for alternative points of sale outside of buildings, including curbside pickup or delivery of products and/or services if an alternative point of sale is permitted under Georgia law;
  18. Increasing physical space between workers and customers;
  19. Providing disinfectant and sanitation products for workers to clean their workspace, equipment, and tools; and
  20. Increasing physical space between workers’ worksites to at least six (6) feet.

The April 20, 2020 Executive Order includes the same language and restrictions from the previous April 2, 2020 Executive Order. This language and restriction states that all businesses, non-profits, and county and municipal governments, other than those defined as “Critical Infrastructure,” shall restrict gatherings to ten (10) individuals at a single location if “such gathering requires persons to stand or be seated within six (6) feet of any other person.”

Reopening of Other Businesses Effective April 27, 2020:

Governor Kemp’s April 20, 2020 Executive Order does not include any provisions that reopen or lift restrictions for:

  • Restaurant dine-in services;
  • Private Social Clubs; and
  • Theaters

However, during his press conference on April 20, 2020, Governor Kemp announced that the above businesses will be allowed to reopen on Monday, April 27, 2020, should those businesses comply with specific social distancing and sanitation mandates. The Governor’s Office will be issuing these additional mandates for these businesses in the next few days.

Governor Kemp stated in his press conference that the following businesses will remain closed:

  • Bars
  • Nightclubs
  • Operators of Amusement Park Rides
  • Live Performance Venues

So What Next?

Employers that are planning on reopening their business based on Governor Kemp’s April 20, 2020 Order should immediately begin assessing the health and safety protocols they have in place now for employees and what additional steps they need to take to implement the protocols identified by the April 20 Order.  Further, we recommend that employers consult with their counsel to evaluate any industry or location-specific measures that should be taken to reduce any concerns by customers of contracting COVID-19 when visiting the employer’s establishment. 

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include returning to the workplace, business interruption coverage 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.**

Stay at Home Orders Under Attack – What are the Limits and Rights of State Governments?

Posted on: April 22nd, 2020

By: Marc Finkel

Faced with the uncertainty of navigating through a global pandemic, governors throughout the United States have issued a series of executive orders aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.  Many of these executive orders have placed restrictions on our daily lives from the closure of schools to the closure of restaurants, movie theaters, and barbershops.  Since the beginning of March, as the number of positive cases of the novel coronavirus began to increase in different parts of the United States, the frequency of additionally restrictive executive orders aimed at “flattening the curve” of the novel coronavirus has increased as well.  Due to the varying degrees of restrictions that have been placed on some of our freedoms, there has been a recent uptick in court challenges to several of these executive orders. 

A recent illustration of this has started playing out in the State of Kansas, where Governor Laura Kelly issued Executive Orders 20-18 and 20-25 that modified prior executive orders placing certain restrictions on public activities and mass gatherings to include a prohibition against in-person religious gatherings of more than 10 people.  On April 11, 2020, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld Governor Kelly’s limitations on such in-person religious gatherings on state law grounds.  However, recently, United States District Court Judge for the District of Kansas, Hon. John W. Broomes, granted a temporary injunction on behalf of the First Baptist Church and Calvary Baptist Church that enjoins Executive Orders 20-18 and 20-25 from being further implemented on U.S. Constitutional grounds. 

In First Baptist Church, et al. v. Governor Laura Kelly, No. 20-1102-JWB, (April 18, 2020), Judge Broomes determined that the Plaintiffs met the standard for the issuance of a temporary restraining order by finding that Executive Orders 20-18 and 20-25 were not facially neutral in the restrictions it placed upon in-person religious assemblies.  The Court primarily based its decision on the fact that religious assembly was previously considered an essential public activity under the first wave of executive orders issued by Governor Kelly to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic in the State of Kansas, and that Executive Orders 20-18 and 20-25 were issued specifically to place restrictions on the right of in-person religious assembly.  The Court also found that the restrictions on the right of in-person religious assembly were likely not narrowly tailored, because the safety concerns that serve the basis of Executive Orders 20-18 and 20-25 are not dissimilar to safety concerns with respect to other secular mass gathering activities deemed essential under prior executive orders issued by Governor Kelly (e.g., mass gatherings at airports).  The Court noted, however, that those other secular mass gatherings are subjected to less restrictive conditions under Executive Orders 20-18 and 20-25.  Furthermore, as this is a matter that concerns a limitation on a person’s First Amendment rights, even if only for a minimal period of time, the Court found that the Plaintiffs risk irreparable injury for the purpose of obtaining a temporary restraining order.

Hearing on a permanent injunction as to Executive Orders 20-18 and 20-25 is scheduled for April 23, 2020.  The Court recognized the novel coronavirus presents an “unprecedented health crisis” that places on Governor Kelly an “immense and sobering responsibility” to protect the lives of Kansans.  Therefore, the Court in granting the temporary restraining order, expressly stated that it would “not issue any restraint, temporary or otherwise, if the evidence showed such action would substantially interfere with that responsibility.”  Accordingly, it is unclear whether the Plaintiffs will ultimately obtain a permanent injunction as to the implementation of Executive Orders 20-18 and 20-25.  In fact, a reading of the Court’s decision granting the temporary restraining order suggests that a more facially neutral limitation on the right to in-person religious assembly may pass constitutional muster.  This is a critical matter worth following, as the Court’s decision on whether to issue a permanent injunction will likely serve as a roadmap for deciding constitutional challenges to similar executive orders throughout the United States.

Additional Information:

The FMG Coronavirus Task Team will be conducting a series of webinars on Coronavirus issues on a regular basis. Topics include returning to the workplace, business interruption coverage 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.**

Game, Set, Match: Wimbledon’s Decision To Purchase Pandemic Insurance Coverage Could Be A Winner

Posted on: April 13th, 2020

By: Bill Buechner

Among many other more serious impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic, many prominent sporting events have been cancelled or postponed, including the NCAA Tournament, the Masters, the Kentucky Derby and the French Open tennis tournament.  Also, all American professional sports leagues (except for the NFL) have suspended their seasons indefinitely or postponed the beginning of their seasons, including the NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS.  Each of these scheduling changes has resulted in the loss or postponement of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue. 

On April 1, Wimbledon announced the cancellation of its championship tennis tournament that was scheduled for June 29 to July 12 in London.  However, unlike the other events and leagues mentioned above, Wimbledon reportedly purchased event cancellation coverage that includes coverage for an event cancellation caused by an infectious disease.  (The British Open golf tournament, which has also been cancelled, also reportedly purchased pandemic insurance coverage).  The All England Lawn Tennis Club, which operates the Wimbledon championships, apparently purchased pandemic insurance coverage about 18 years ago after the SARS outbreak in 2002.  Neither the insurer nor the exact terms of the policy have been publicly disclosed, but several media reports indicate that Wimbledon paid an annual premium of approximately $2 million per year for comprehensive pandemic event cancellation coverage. 

The UK Daily Mail has reported that Wimbledon will receive approximately $141 million under its pandemic event cancellation policy.   Having paid approximately $34 million in premiums over the past 17 years, it appears that Wimbledon’s decision to purchase the infectious disease coverage will benefit Wimbledon to the tune of approximately $107 million.  Media reports estimate that Wimbledon has received approximately $310 million in revenues from the tournament in recent years. 

In contrast to Wimbledon, other events without similar insurance coverage, such as the Masters, the Kentucky Derby and the French Open, are scrambling to avoid or reduce massive losses by re-scheduling their events for the fall and hoping that the COVID-19 pandemic will be over by then and that fans and viewers will attend and watch these sporting events during a different time of year than normal.  Professional sports leagues without pandemic insurance coverage and hoping to limit or prevent substantial losses face uncertainty as to if or when they will be able to start their season (MLB and NFL) or if they will be able to complete their season, including playoffs (NBA, NHL, MLS). 

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.**