In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, courts and litigants are reinventing civil litigation – holding hearings on Zoom or Skype, using emails and conference calls to communicate status, and taking remote depositions. That said, “virtual discovery” is not new. Since 1993, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure expressly authorized taking depositions by remote electronic means. States including Ohio, Massachusetts and Texas have followed suit. See, e.g., Ohio R. Civ. P. 30(b)(6); Mass. R. Civ. P. 29; Tex. R. Civ. P. 199.1
Continue Reading Pitfalls of Remote Depositions

St. LouisSt. Louis City Judge Michael K. Mullen recently entered an important order interpreting Missouri’s 2019 legislation governing joinder and venue law. See Order, Johnson v. Bayer Corporation, et al., 1622-CC01049-01 (Mo. Cir. Ct. St. Louis Cty. May 5, 2020) (Johnson). Put simply, St. Louis City’s automatically-generated trial docket dates (the “rolling docket”) do not satisfy the eligibility requirement of a having a “trial date” on or before August 28, 2019 within the savings clause. Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: Venue Statute’s Savings Clause Clarified by St. Louis City Order

Many cities and states have issued guidance regarding face coverings, social distancing, and other safety measures for employees. When each state has different, rapidly evolving guidance, and sometimes conflicting guidance, this can quickly become confusing.  However, failure to establish policies and obtain consent can expose startups to litigation.

Startups may have questions and concerns regarding best practices for reopening and reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19. To address these concerns and mitigate risk, we have compiled a number of return-to-work policies and procedures for startups to consider.

Face Coverings

  • Provide each employee with a washable, reusable mask.
  • Investigate any instances of non-compliance consistently and fairly (without violating the ADA).
  • Refrain from making assumptions about employees with known pre-existing medical conditions.
  • Avoid automatic exclusions for individuals perceived as vulnerable when creating and implementing return-to-work policies and procedures.

Symptom-Monitoring

  • Implement symptom-monitoring protocols for employees and visitors (could be anything from self-monitoring symptoms to temperature scan stations).
  • Determine what temperature threshold is required for your work site (the CDC recommends 100.4°F (38°C) but some states have a lower threshold).
  • Do not retain any employee symptom information to avoid a potential violation of the ADA’s confidential information requirements.

Cleaning Requirements

  • Establish and maintain cleaning protocols specific to the needs and nature of your business.
  • Identify high touch areas, such as door handles and light switches, and frequently clean and sanitize these areas.
  • Provide hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes in various areas throughout the workplace.
  • Review state-specific cleaning requirements and implement these procedures accordingly.

The best way to mitigate risk is to have return-to-work policies and procedures in place.  Since every startup is unique, we recommend creating a plan specifically for your employees, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders.  If you have specific questions regarding your startup’s return-to-work plan, please reach out to your Husch Blackwell attorney or consider using our Return-to-Work Policy Generator customized to your specific business.

Map of Illinois.On June 4, the Illinois Supreme Court issued an opinion that further limits the exercise of personal jurisdiction over out-of-state defendants in Christy Rios et al., v. Bayer Corporation et al., and Nichole Hamby et al., v. Bayer Corporation et al., 2020 IL 125020. At issue was whether “Illinois may exercise specific personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant as to the claims of out-of-state plaintiffs for personal injuries suffered outside of Illinois from a device manufactured outside of Illinois.” Following rulings from the United States Supreme Court and those from other states, the court answered with a resounding: “no.”

Continue Reading Illinois Reins in Exercise of Personal Jurisdiction over Out-of-State Defendants for Nonresidents’ Claims

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has initiated Section 301 investigations on Digital Services Taxes adopted or under consideration by various countries which could lead to new punitive tariffs and increased global trade tensions. Husch Blackwell’s International Trade and Supply Chain group is following the developments. Get all the details on the International Trade Insights blog.

 

On March 10, 2020, in a 54 to 46 vote, the Iowa House of Representatives passed Senate File 2337 (SF2337) in an effort to reduce the over-naming of asbestos defendants in related lawsuits filed in Iowa.  The legislation focuses on reducing, or eliminating, the over-naming of asbestos defendants by requiring plaintiffs to provide detailed evidence of exposure for each named defendant. While Iowa is not known as a hot-spot for asbestos-related lawsuits, Iowa has reportedly seen its fair share of alleged asbestos related deaths.¹ Iowa’s lack of asbestos filings likely comes as a result of the state’s significant tort reform efforts, with SF2337 being the latest addition.

Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: Over-Naming of Asbestos Defendants Bill Awaits Iowa’s Governor

Missouri flag with gavel toxic tort verdictOn May 12, 2020, the Missouri legislature passed Senate Bill 591 (SB 591), which provides major changes related to how punitive damages are assessed in civil and medical malpractice actions and brings significant reform to the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act (MMPA), Missouri’s consumer protection law. Missouri Governor Mike Parsons is expected to sign the bill shortly.

Continue Reading Toxic Tort Monitor: Missouri Senate Bill 591 Provides Clarity and Safeguards for Defendants

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently updated its Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9, also called M-274.  These changes are meant to clarify and add detail to existing Form I-9 rules, but do not alter the Form I-9 rules themselves or the version of the Form I-9 that employers should currently be using.  As of April 30, all employers must use Form I-9 dated 10/21/2019.  However, a few of these clarifications to the new edition of USCIS’ Handbook are of note.

Continue Reading USCIS Updates Employer Guidance for Completion of Form I-9

Around the time that much of the United States was beginning to shut down in response to COVID-19, President Trump nominated Dr. Nancy B. Beck for Commissioner and Chairman of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). A review of Dr. Beck’s education and background shows that the vast majority of her career – over 15 years – has been spent in public service. Yet Dr. Beck’s nomination has been met with criticism of her roughly five years as a Director at the American Chemistry Council (ACC). For instance, the Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee issued a press release which highlighted Dr. Beck’s time at the ACC and claimed that Dr. Beck was “doing the bidding of the chemical industry at the expense of the health and safety of the American public.” Likewise, the Washington Post and New York Times headlined articles about Dr. Beck with a description of her as a “chemical industry executive.” While it may be expected that Dr. Beck’s detractors would focus on her time at the ACC, media characterizations of her as a “chemical industry executive” do not accurately describe the whole of her professional efforts.

Continue Reading Early Criticism of President’s Nominee for CPSC Chair Neglects Much of Beck’s Education and Background

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES ACT) was recently passed to provide economic relief to small businesses that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. Due to the number of businesses that applied for aid, funding for the CARES Act was quickly depleted. On April 24, 2020, President Trump signed into law an amendment to the CARES Act providing additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Emergency Economic Injury Disaster (EIDL) grants and loans. The amendment increased the appropriation level for PPP by $321.335 billion (which includes an additional $310 billion for PPP loans, and $11.335 billion for administrative fees) and authorized an additional $10 billion for emergency EIDL grants and $50 billion for EIDL loans. As before, both the PPP and EIDL funds are available on a first-come, first serve-basis. Consequently, eligible businesses that are interested in benefiting from these programs are encouraged to apply as soon as possible, as funds from this second round are also expected to be exhausted quickly.

To assist you in your application process, we have prepared a brief overview of the eligibility requirements, terms and application procedures for the PPP and EIDL loan programs. If you have any additional questions please visit the Husch Blackwell CARES Act Frequently Asked Questions page or contact a member of the Cortex Team.

Continue Reading Additional Funding Now Available for Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans