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Covid-19: Assessing the Legal Risk of Infectious Diseases

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) – better known as the coronavirus – has turned our world upside down in a matter of weeks. The infectious disease caused by this newly emerged virus, Covid-19, has taken thousands of lives and sickened hundreds of thousands. The resulting public health crisis threatens to become an economic catastrophe, as governments weigh the need for populations to shelter in place against the financial cost of shutting down most businesses. The risk of lawsuits due to exposure to this infectious disease may add to the economic difficulties businesses are now facing. This article assesses that risk based on principles developed in past infectious disease litigation and the known characteristics of the coronavirus.

North Carolina State Court in Uncharted Territory in Finding Covid-19 Business Interruption Coverage

A Superior Court Judge in Durham County, North Carolina recently ruled in favor of a number of restaurants in their collective action against Cincinnati Insurance for loss of business income due to the Covid-19 pandemic in a case captioned North State Deli, LLC, et al. v. The Cincinnati Insurance Company, et al., Case No. 20-CVS-02569. In a departure from courts across the country, the presiding judge held that government orders restricting the policyholders’ use of their restaurants constituted “direct physical loss” thus triggering the policies’ Business Income coverage. The court reasoned that the phrase “direct physical loss” “includes the inability to utilize or possess something in the real, material, or bodily world, resulting from a given cause with the intervention of other conditions” and therefore “describes the scenario where business owners…lose the full range of rights and advantages of using or accessing their business property.”

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WSHB Cyber Team Obtains Dismissal of Data Breach Class Action

WSHB Cybersecurity & Data Privacy team lead Christopher Seusing, along with senior counsel Ryan Schoeb and senior associate Robin Horton Silverman obtained a dismissal of a putative data breach class action brought against the firm's client, one of Florida’s largest healthcare providers. The client previously suffered a data security incident targeting its employee payroll system. The plaintiff filed suit on behalf of herself and approximately 63,000 other individuals alleging that the client failed to maintain an adequate data security system. The plaintiff's complaint raised nine causes of action, including a purported violation of Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, negligence, negligence per se, breaches of express and implied contract, intrusion upon seclusion/invasion of privacy, unjust enrichment, breach of confidence, and breach of fiduciary duty.

Governor Newsom Signs Wildfire Legislation to Protect California Consumers and DOI Urges Carriers to Cover Wildfire Property Losses

On October 1, 2020, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed three bills sponsored by the California Department of Insurance and Commissioner Ricardo Lara to enable future wildfire survivors to recover faster and protect the rights of domestic workers during an emergency. Senate Bill 872 was introduced on January 21, 2020 by Senator Bill Dodd. The new law will expand the definition of additional living expenses that must be paid to homeowners for losses incurred in a state of emergency and require an advance payment of no less than four months for costs such as housing, furniture rental and transportation. The new law will also mandate an advance payment of no less than 25 percent of the policy limit for lost contents without submission of an inventory form and require insurers to provide homeowners a 60-day grace period for payment of residential premium after an emergency. Additionally, insurers will be barred from deducting the land value from payouts for insureds who build on new lots.

WSHB Expands Geographic Footprint

WSHB is proud to announce the opening of its newest location in Boston, Massachusetts. The firm’s Boston location will provide the firm’s full array of nationwide legal services in both litigated and non-litigated practice areas. WSHB Partner Christopher J. Seusing has been selected as the managing partner for the firm's newest location. Seusing called Massachusetts home for many years, first as he earned his undergraduate degree, cum laude, from Stonehill College in Easton, MA, and then as he went on to earn his law degree, cum laude, at Suffolk University in downtown Boston. He honed his litigation skills practicing throughout Massachusetts following his graduation from Suffolk.

WSHB Expands to South Carolina

WSHB is proud to announce the opening of its newest location in Charleston, South Carolina. At the helm of WSHB's newest location will be WSHB partner William W. Silverman. Admitted to practice in both South Carolina and North Carolina, Silverman enjoys a well-deserved reputation for consistent results in complex commercial litigation. His varied practice includes the defense of construction and corporate disputes, insurance coverage, first and third party insurance bad faith litigation, environmental, and catastrophic injury matters. He is an “AV Preeminent” rated attorney by Martindale-Hubbell, and has been listed in Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite in the Young Guns and Construction categories.

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