Tagged: Coronavirus

Governor Murphy Signs Executive Order Number 142 Allowing Resumption of Non-Essential Construction, Curbside Pick-Up from Non-Essential Retail Stores, and Gatherings in Vehicles

Governor Murphy Signs Executive Order Number 142 Allowing Resumption of Non-Essential Construction, Curbside Pick-Up from Non-Essential Retail Stores, and Gatherings in Vehicles

Given the decrease in the rate of reported new cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey, on May 13, 2020, Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order Number 142 (2020) (“EO 142”) permitting, among other things, the resumption of non-essential construction, curbside pickup at non-essential retail businesses, and gatherings in vehicles. The construction and non-essential retail provisions of EO 142 went into effect at 6:00 a.m. on Monday, May 18, and the provisions allowing for gatherings in vehicles took effect when the order was signed on May 13. EO 142 is part of New Jersey’s “Road Back” strategy to begin the careful restart of the economy. Resumption of “Non-Essential” Construction and Requirements for All Construction Projects While Governor Murphy’s Executive Order Number 122 (“EO 122”) allowed only “essential construction projects” to continue, subject to adhering to certain restrictions, EO 142 provides that all construction projects in New Jersey (“essential” and “non-essential”) may proceed, provided they adopt policies that include, at minimum, the following requirements: Exclude non-essential visitors from the worksite. Restrict project meetings and workgroups to fewer than ten individuals. Follow social distancing requirements of six feet or more distance between individuals wherever possible, including when picking up or delivering materials or...

Is Everything Negotiable? Anticipating Legal Issues for the “Reopening”

Is Everything Negotiable? Anticipating Legal Issues for the “Reopening”

In the early 1980s, a book entitled You Can Negotiate Anything spent nine months on the New York Times bestseller list. The book may have a resurgence in the coming months, as one thing is for certain right now: After the state’s reopening, every contract, lease, and agreement is likely to be subject to negotiation. While much attention has been focused on force majeure provisions in contracts and potential bankruptcy filings, the practical effect of survival of the fittest will dictate necessary legal needs. Certainly there will be a time lag for the courts to be clogged with new cases. The retail, leisure travel, and entertainment sectors, while arguably most impacted by the recent closures and restrictions, will surely not be the only areas where businesses and individuals by necessity will renegotiate virtually every existing agreement. As New Jersey deals with the enormity of the COVID-19 pandemic, legal issues are emerging that were previously never contemplated. In an instant, the world has changed, and all negotiated contracts are potentially at risk. The question becomes: How do businesses protect their futures? To start, anticipate legal issues. Documents and Agreements Likely to Be Subject to Renegotiation It is prudent to develop a...

Beyond Force Majeure: Government Quarantine Orders May Themselves Excuse Contract Non-Performance

Beyond Force Majeure: Government Quarantine Orders May Themselves Excuse Contract Non-Performance

The coronavirus pandemic is reverberating throughout commercial sectors, and countless contract obligations are going unperformed—shipments are not being made or accepted, payments are being missed, and contract milestone dates are lapsing every week that the pandemic and business shutdown continues. Those typically rare force majeure provisions are now being scrutinized. (For more on those topics, see previous entries in our COVID-19 “The Coronavirus Pandemic and Your Business: How We Can Help” client alert series, including “Litigation Issues That May Arise.”) And, in New Jersey, the precise language of such a clause is key, as courts in this state have held that they should be “narrowly interpreted as contemplating only events or things of the same general nature or class as those specifically enumerated.” Seitz v. Mark-O-Lite Sign Contractors, Inc., 210 N.J. Super. 646 (N.J. Sup. Ct. Law Div. 1986). With only some force majeure clauses including explicit references to pandemics, or broadly-worded “catch-alls,” the success of a force majeure defense is not necessarily certain. But before (or in addition to) attempting to invoke that force majeure provision, consider whether a court would ultimately determine that contractual non-performance is due to an “Act of God” or rather is being caused by...

Antitrust Law and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Antitrust Law and the COVID-19 Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic is having repercussions in all sectors of the legal community, as illustrated in the prior entries in our “The Coronavirus Pandemic and Your Business: How We Can Help” client alert series. Antitrust law is no exception. The Bureau of Competition of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) have put out two joint statements in response to COVID-19, one on March 24 and another just last week. Both contain reminders and useful guidance concerning cooperation among market participants during these unprecedented times. Recognizing that meeting the challenges posed by the pandemic will require collaborative efforts to address pressing health and safety needs, FTC and DOJ highlighted in their March 24 statement certain types of coordinated activity that the antitrust laws generally permit – because they lead to outcomes that are efficiency-enhancing and pro-competitive. These include: Collaboration on research and development, as may be the case with R&D for developing a potential vaccine. Sharing of information regarding technical know-how as opposed to firm-specific data on prices and outputs. Standard setting designed to assist healthcare providers in clinical decision-making. Joint purchasing arrangements among medical providers that aid procurement, perhaps of PPE,...

Governor Murphy Signs Executive Order Number 122 to Cease All Non-Essential Construction Projects and Impose Additional Mitigation Requirements

Governor Murphy Signs Executive Order Number 122 to Cease All Non-Essential Construction Projects and Impose Additional Mitigation Requirements

On April 8, 2020, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order Number 122 (2020) (“EO 122”), which marks the twenty-first consecutive Order issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. EO 122 requires all non-essential construction projects to cease and imposes additional mitigation requirements on essential retail businesses, construction projects, and industries to reduce the rate of community spread of COVID-19 in New Jersey. EO 122 took effect beginning at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, April 10, 2020 (the “Effective Date”), and remains in effect until revoked or modified by the Governor. “Essential” vs. “Non-Essential” Construction Projects and Requirements for Manufacturing and Warehousing Businesses and Essential Construction EO 122 requires the physical operations of all “non-essential” construction projects to cease as of the Effective Date but, subject to certain requirements discussed below, allows “essential construction projects” to continue. “Essential construction projects” is defined broadly to include the following 14 categories of projects: Healthcare projects at hospitals, other healthcare facilities, and pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities Transportation projects involving roads, bridges, airports, seaports, and mass transit facilities or physical infrastructure Utility projects Residential affordable housing projects Schools projects from kindergarten through higher education Projects already started involving individual single-family homes or apartments already occupied,...

New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Temporarily Relaxes Construction Code Provisions Relating to Minor Work, Inspections, and Certificate Requirements

New Jersey Department of Community Affairs Temporarily Relaxes Construction Code Provisions Relating to Minor Work, Inspections, and Certificate Requirements

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Phil Murphy issued Executive Order No. 107 (“EO 107”) on March 21, 2020, mandating that all non-essential brick-and-mortar retail businesses close to the public as long as EO 107 remains in effect. EO 107 does not require closure of construction projects. Not only does EO 107 identify “construction workers” as an example of employees who need to be physically present at their work sites in order to perform their duties, but also, shortly after issuing EO 107, Governor Murphy sent a tweet confirming that work at construction sites may continue. On the same date that Governor Murphy issued EO 107, he issued Executive Order No. 108 (“EO 108”), which provides that local officials may not enact or enforce rules or regulations that conflict with EO 107. Although work at construction sites continues in New Jersey, there are myriad ways in which construction projects can be adversely impacted by the COVID-19 virus. One potential impact concerns ongoing inspections of construction work performed by local construction code officials pursuant to the Uniform Construction Code (UCC), N.J.A.C. 5:23. Construction code officials routinely inspect ongoing projects at various points during construction and issue Certificates of Occupancy for...

ADA Website Liability and COVID-19

ADA Website Liability and COVID-19

Perhaps the last thing that many companies are focused on in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis is the extent to which their websites are compliant with accepted accessibility standards and the threat of ADA website accessibility class actions or individual claims. Unfortunately, however, it appears that ever-enterprising plaintiffs’ attorneys are taking advantage of this crisis to press these already ubiquitous claims even further. Over the past several years, thousands of federal lawsuits, styled as both class and individual actions, have been filed against companies in many industries seeking injunctive and compensatory relief for website-related violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Department of Justice, which enforces the ADA, has taken the position that the “Web Content Accessibility Guidelines” developed by the World Wide Web Consortium provide a minimum standard, and most courts have agreed. These cases seek injunctive and compensatory relief for violations of the ADA and analogous state and local anti-discrimination laws, specifically alleging that websites are not compliant with the ADA and accessibility guidelines particularly for vision-impaired users. These cases have developed into a lucrative cottage industry for certain plaintiffs’ attorneys, as they are easy to prosecute, difficult to defend, and often result in expedited...

SEC Offers Disclosure Guidance and Extensions of Certain Reporting and Disclosure Deadlines

SEC Offers Disclosure Guidance and Extensions of Certain Reporting and Disclosure Deadlines

Recognizing the struggle businesses currently face and will continue to face in satisfying their disclosure obligations amid the uncertainty surrounding this unprecedented crisis, the SEC’s Division of Corporate Finance on March 25 issued disclosure guidance specific to the coronavirus pandemic. In its guidance, the Division acknowledges that it “may be difficult to assess or predict with precision, the broad effects of COVID-19 on industries or individual companies” and that “the actual impact will depend on many factors beyond a company’s control and knowledge.” That said, the Division goes on to encourage “timely reporting,” noting that SEC disclosure requirements apply to a “broad range of evolving business risks” that may not be specifically identified, including the “known or reasonably likely effects of and the types of risks presented by COVID-19.” The Division encourages “tailored” disclosure of “material information about the impact of COVID-19 to investors and market participants … that allow investors to evaluate the current and expected impact of COVID-19 through the eyes of management,” and proactive revision and update of those disclosures as facts and circumstances change. The Division identifies in its guidance a non-exhaustive list of specific issues relevant to assessing and disclosing the evolving impact of COVID-19,...

Guidance for Consumer Product Manufacturers, Distributors, and Sellers

Guidance for Consumer Product Manufacturers, Distributors, and Sellers

Wide-ranging issues are arising in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis and will continue to impact our clients in a growing number of ways. The Gibbons Consumer Class Action Defense Team is here to help and can work with you to address these critical concerns. Communication with consumers is critically important for consumer product manufacturers, distributors, and sellers, whether in the form of product labeling, advertising, or direct communications through telephone, text, and email. These communications are fraught with class action hazards that should be addressed in advance. Particularly in our present environment, product statements or advertising that, for example, promote the ability to stave off infection, increase the body’s immune system functions, or disinfect surfaces, may become subject to challenge in class action lawsuits by entrepreneurial class action attorneys. Sellers that contact their customers using text messaging platforms or dialing systems need to be particularly wary given the proliferation of TCPA class actions which cause great harm to small and large business alike. Also, companies seeking to recoup losses may over-aggressively promote their own products in a manner that is illegal and anti-competitive. Franchisors and franchisees may be faced with economic circumstances that make their current arrangements impractical. If...

Preparing for and Addressing Potential Impacts of COVID-19 on the Construction Industry

Preparing for and Addressing Potential Impacts of COVID-19 on the Construction Industry

As the number of COVID-19 cases increases exponentially in the United States, the impact on the construction industry will inevitably continue to rise. Although projects in many states continue to progress at this time, some jurisdictions have taken drastic measures. For example, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation recently suspended all construction projects until further notice in response to COVID-19. Similarly, all construction projects in Boston were ordered to stop for at least 14 days. In addition to shutdowns that may possibly be imposed by potential government action in response to the virus, ancillary issues could adversely impact parties to a construction project and the labor, goods, services, and materials used on projects. Such issues may include disruptions to construction supply chains in the U.S. and abroad, employees becoming ill and under quarantine, a workforce adjusting to changes resulting from school closings and other evolving societal changes flowing from COVID-19, and a rapidly changing and uncertain economic situation. While the current situation is essentially unprecedented, there are some actions parties in the construction industry can take to help prepare for, and address, potential impacts to their business and ongoing projects. Review Construction Contracts: Whether it is a standard form construction contract...