Articles Posted in Covid-19

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The coronavirus-triggered shelter-in-place and social distancing requirements of 2020 have created, or at least hastened, changes in all walks of life, including in the world of business. Negotiations that might once have occurred face-to-face now might take place over a Zoom conference. Some businesses are, when it comes to their commercial contracts that once would have been executed with ink on paper, reconsidering whether those agreements can be signed electronically. With these new changes come new legal challenges, including ensuring that the methods you’ve used comply with Florida law in order that your end result will be an enforceable contract. Always be sure to rely on the advice of an experienced South Florida commercial contract attorney when it comes to executing such a contract, in order to ensure the contract with which you end up is one that’s drafted properly, executed properly and enforceable in the courts.

Electronic signatures are something that were gaining in popularity and frequency of use even before the pandemic struck. Before anyone had ever heard the phrase “COVID-19,” Florida had adopted its version of the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act. Fla. Stat. Section 668.50(7)(a) says that a signature “may not be denied legal effect or enforceability” strictly because it is an electronic one, and Subsection (b) says that just “because an electronic record was used in the formation of the contract,” that alone is not a sufficient basis to make the contract unenforceable.

In Florida, a valid electronic signature can be “an electronic sound,” a symbol, or a process “logically associated with a record” and inserted “with the intent to sign the record.” Electronic signature technology can allow signors to create an electronic version of their signature using their finger or a stencil on a touchscreen, or to sign with a prefabricated signature font created by the electronic platform. Either version potentially can be a valid electronic signature.

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The unprecedented global cessation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will have lasting effects on companies worldwide. COVID-19 and the government regulations to control the spread thereof have caused an increasing number of businesses to suspend operations and close down facilities, resulting in substantial losses. Any business owner with a commercial insurance policy that has suffered losses due to COVID-19 should have their policy reviewed immediately by an attorney to determine if they can recover their losses through business interruption insurance. Because insurance companies will attempt to deny claims due to the policy language or exclusions contained therein, it is critical for business owners to understand their policy rights, as well as current and future legal developments in the insurance sector relating to COVID-19, to ensure they are afforded the most protection possible.

I. Business Interruption Insurance and Litigation

Business interruption insurance covers business income that is lost or expenses incurred in the event of a stoppage in business operations due to a disaster, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, fire, or pandemics such as COVID-19. In many cases, business interruption insurance will also cover losses caused by government action, otherwise known as civil authority coverage. While each policy is different, business interruption insurance may cover lost profits, fixed costs, expenses associated with moving to a temporary business location, ingress/egress costs, employee wages, and loan payments, among other things. Each business’ coverage will be determined on a case by case basis, and therefore it is imperative that the policyholder understand their policy, including any time limitations or notice requirements thereunder required to trigger coverage.

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