The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has caused a significant health crisis throughout the world. The health concerns and public response to this catastrophe have been overwhelming. The potential economic impact of this crisis has yet to be fully addressed.
At Lether Law Group we are actively reviewing a number of potential legal and insurance related issues which will develop as a result of this ongoing situation. This includes analyzing the impact the virus will have on worldwide financial markets, the local impact on businesses and jobs, and the implication that this situation will have on our insurers and private clients.
Obviously, this is a rapidly changing and developing environment and we are working to stay on the forefront in identifying potential issues and developing a response to emerging issues for our clients. A number of issues have already been identified. For example, what are the potential coverage issues involving claims for business interruption or arising out of acts of decisions of government agencies to shut down transportation, service or public events? Additional issues arise in regard to the potential coverage for business interruption losses arising out of breach of contract claims and other transactual litigation which clearly will develop as a result of businesses and individuals retracting from ongoing financial obligations and business arrangements. Concerns have also arisen regarding potential liability and coverage issues for healthcare professionals and first responders that are on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19.
We are also assessing the potential liability and coverage issues that might arise from accidental exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace and public at large. Finally, we are also working to address the significant issue involving available health benefits under public and private health insurance plans associated with medical care for COVID-19 infection.
One thing is definitely clear, this health crisis will not be going away any time soon and will continue to impact the economy and the insurance markets for the foreseeable future. In fact, the impacts are already affecting large portions of our society, with the cancellation of nearly every major sporting event, festival, concert, and other public gathering. The crisis is also dramatically impacting our courts. The following is a brief summary of what we know so far:
Pursuant to General Order 01-20, signed by Chief Judge Ricardo Martinez on March 6, 2020, all trials in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington are continued indefinitely. The Court remains open, but there will be no hearings or trials. The Order will be vacated or amended on or before March 31, 2020. We anticipate that the Order will be extended at that time.
On March 4, 2020, Chief Justice Debra Stephens of the Washington State Supreme Court issued an Emergency Order allowing the Superior Courts and intermediate appellate courts to “adopt, modify, and suspend” the court rules or orders as warranted to address the crisis.
The King County Superior Court has suspended all personal appearances for oral argument on contested motions. We are also advised that although there is no formal Order at this point, there will be no civil trial in King County for a minimum of 2-3 months.
The Pierce County Superior Court will continue to hold trials and hearings, but it appears that decisions on whether to go forward are being placed in the discretion of each judicial department. Practitioners are being encouraged to contact the judicial assistant in their assigned department to inquire as to the status of pending matters.
The Snohomish County Superior Court has adopted an Emergency Order substantially the same as that adopted by Pierce County.
At this time, there are no changes to court operations for the United States District Court for the District of Oregon.
The largest state court in the State of Oregon, the Multnomah County Circuit Court, has ordered that all civil trials are continued for at least 30 days.
The United States District Court for the District of Idaho is maintaining normal operations. However, the Court has barred anyone who has travelled to the following areas in the past 14 days from entering the Court: China, Iran, Japan, South Korea, and “the Seattle/Tacoma area.”
Multiple other courts in the Pacific Northwest, and frankly throughout the United States, have adopted measures urging caution and offering recommendations for dealing with COVID-19. We urge anyone with any pending matter to visit the relevant court website for further information.
Despite any interruptions in the business environment or any court closures, Lether Law Group remains open and available to discuss these or any other issues at any time. If you are interested in discussing the impact of COVID-19 in relationship to economic concerns, insurance, or any other issues, please contact Lether Law Group.