FROM OUR MANAGING PARTNER
HOW COMMERCIAL INSURANCE POLICIES DEFINE AND COVER “BUSINESS INTERRUPTION”
IS YOUR BUSINESS PREPARED TO IDENTIFY AND ADDRESS A CYBERSECURITY BREACH?
GCT ALERT: CORONAVIRUS SUMMARY
GCT WELCOMES A NEW PARTNER
While it is uncertain what the next few months hold in store, you can rest assured that safeguarding you and your assets is our priority, and our commitment is unwavering. All of us at Golan Christie Taglia hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and safe and send our warmest wishes for brighter days ahead.
Stephen L. Golan
FOCUS: Commercial & Business Litigation
DO COMMERCIAL INSURANCE POLICIES APPLY TO COVID-19?
HOW INSURANCE COMPANIES DEFINE “BUSINESS INTERRUPTION” COVERAGE
A mandatory order requiring a business to close may qualify as a triggering event for coverage
Business interruption insurance may provide coverage for lost profits and related costs when a company is unable to continue normal business operations. Also, a mandatory order requiring a business to close to avoid the spread of COVID-19 may qualify as an order of civil authority, which may trigger coverage. Golan Christie Taglia’s litigation team may be able to pursue these claims on a contingent fee or alternative fee basis.
THE INSURANCE POLICY
The interpretation of an insurance policy can be difficult without professional guidance. Policies can be confusing and contradictory, particularly when describing what is excluded from coverage and policy limits. It is also critical that claims be filed in a timely manner, in the proper format and sent to the appropriate party.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Insurance companies are very good at taking premiums but often quick to deny claims. In the current health and economic environment, it is reasonable to expect that an insurance company will review COVID-19 claims with heightened scrutiny and will aggressively pursue every avenue to justify denial of coverage. The insurance company will assert all available policy exclusions, including a likely assertion that the insured must incur a direct physical loss to its property and that the loss must be a result of a “covered peril.” The insurance company may gamble that the insured, already suffering substantial losses, will not have the energy or resources to vigorously pursue its claim. The unique facts of each claim, and the specific wording of each insurance policy, will ultimately determine whether COVID-19 losses are covered.
The business of insurance companies is to manage risk, including their own. The fact that an insured is represented by competent legal counsel is a significant factor in whether to accept or deny coverage. While a lawyer can never guarantee a result, an unrepresented insured is a sitting duck for denial of a claim, no matter how legitimate. Bottom line, therefore, is that an insured should retain counsel early in the claims process to make sure the insurance company understands the insured is not standing alone and that the insured will fight for its rights under the policy.
BEWARE OF SCAMS, FRAUDS, AND DATA BREACHES DURING CORONAVIRUS CRISIS
Proactive cybersecurity measures may prevent attacks and scams, but what actions should you take in the event of a cybersecurity incident?
Google reported that in a single week in April, it prevented millions of malicious coronavirus-related emails from reaching Gmail users1. Further, both the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission have issued warnings to raise awareness of fraudulent email scams related to the coronavirus pandemic.2
These cybersecurity scams and attacks appear in many forms. Fraudsters send “phishing” emails where the sender, appearing as a trusted government entity or financial institution, requests confidential financial or personal information. Sometimes, these individuals “spoof” email addresses to appear as an employee’s colleague or boss, like the CEO or President of the company, and request wire transfers to fraudulent accounts. Or, under the disguise of a person of authority, hackers post links asking unsuspecting employees to review documents containing malware, which then allows access into the business’s network.
Good, proactive cybersecurity measures may prevent these attacks and scams. But, especially during this time when many employees are working from home, hackers persist in attempting to locate the weak link within companies. Accordingly, businesses should prepare for when (not if) a cybersecurity breach occurs. Companies should consider the following actions in the event of a cybersecurity incident:
Upon suspicion of a cybersecurity incident, companies should gather the key decision makers and their IT team to investigate the cybersecurity incident and develop a prompt strategy in responding to the particular incident. The first step must be to determine the nature of the incident, quarantine the threat or malware, and remove the malware and/or prevent future access to the company’s network and data that was breached. Hackers have returned to a compromised company years later to find their malware still exists on the company’s network. The business may need to engage a cyber-forensic investigator to determine the scope of the breach and to ensure the prevention of future access.
a. Outside Attorneys: With any cybersecurity incident, attorneys should be retained to determine whether any applicable statutory and regulatory laws require specific immediate disclosures to those impacted and other actions taken by a company. Many states have their own requirements for when and who a company must notify about a cybersecurity incident. Further, certain types of data, such as protected health or biometric information, require compliance with separate statutory notification procedures. Often, these notices must occur within a few weeks of the breach. Failure to comply with any applicable data breach notification laws can result in serious penalties and liability.
b. Insurance Providers: Companies should immediately review all insurance policies before any incidents to make sure they are covered in the event of a cyberattack. Sometimes, more than one policy may cover the costs and losses. For example, one insurer may cover the costs to retain the third parties who act to address and remedy the incident while another may cover the actual monetary loss resulting from the incident. Companies should submit claims to their insurers as soon as possible. Similar to the notification laws, insurance policies mandate a company’s timeliness in submitting a claim.
c. Law Enforcement: Informing law enforcement about a cybersecurity incident is critical because they can provide resources toward the investigation of the breach and the recovery of stolen information or funds. For example, in the event of a fraudulent wire transfer, the agencies will contact the banking institutions directly in an effort to recover the stolen funds. Law enforcement may even provide knowledge regarding a particular hacker, which can inform companies on how the hacker gained access or whether a ransom threat is credible. Some insurers may require reporting the incident to law enforcement as well.
Once the IT team or forensic investigator identifies what occurred, the company should restore the integrity of its technological systems, including repairing its network, changing employees’ access controls and passwords, and replacing corrupted versions of certain data. At the same time, the company should document its efforts to identify, mitigate and resolve the incident, and preserve all evidence of the cybersecurity event, including any access, theft or fraud. Following the incident, executives should maintain daily audit calls to manage any fallout or to ensure the hacker does not regain access.
Tardy reporting by an employee and poor responses by the company’s executives often exacerbates the harm caused by a cybersecurity incident. Accordingly, companies should maintain a written incident response plan and conduct regular training of employees on cybersecurity measures. On an annual basis, businesses should review and assess their current cybersecurity measures and determine whether such measures should be increased or changed. Implementing proactive measures may also demonstrate a company’s reasonable efforts in attempting to prevent cybersecurity incidents if legal disputes and regulatory action arise from an incident.
2Federal Trade Commission, Coronavirus: What the FTC is Doing, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/coronavirus-scams-what-ftc-doing; Federal Bureau of Investigations, FBI Urges Vigilance During COV-ID19 Pandemic https://www.fbi.gov/coronavirus.
GCT ALERT: CORONAVIRUS SUMMARY
THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC is a public health crisis that has presented unforeseen challenges in both our personal and business lives. We know that our clients are struggling with difficult decisions and an overwhelming onslaught of information. The attorneys at Golan Christie Taglia can assist you in navigating whatever you may be facing right now. If you are already working with one of our attorneys, you can reach out to them about any of these issues. If you are unsure about who to contact, we have provided a list of point-people below who can help.
- Talk with your landlord about issues with your lease due to:
- Inability to pay rent (i.e. rent deferrals, extensions or abatements or eventually litigation)
- Talk with your vendor or supplier contracts involving:
- Force majeure clauses or inability to perform
- Suspension and termination rights and re-negotiation of contracts
- Supply chain protection and safeguards that can be put in place to help guarantee delivery
- Payroll Tax credits and other tax benefits put in place by the new COVID related laws
- Tax return due dates and extensions for both returns and payments
- Updating powers of attorney as may be needed
- Obtain electronic copies of your estate planning documents
- Electronic filing of deeds and other items with local Recorders of Deeds
- Reviewing loan documents from lenders
- Determining qualified uses for loan funds
- Making headcount and payroll decisions to maximize forgiveness options
- Preparing applications and documents for loan forgiveness
- Helping coronavirus impacted participants with immediate penalty-free benefit distributions
- Increasing participant loan limits or postponing current loan repayment obligations
- Suspending certain employer contributions for the balance of 2020
- Communicating any plan changes to your employees
- Full or partial closure of business
- Substantial lost revenue
- Loss of rental income due to late or non-payment by tenants
- Increase in vacancy due to tenant move-outs, non-renewals of expiring leases, or an inability to show empty spaces to prospective tenants
- Reduction in sale or rental offering price because of the statewide stay-at-home order
- Unemployment benefits
- The difference between a furlough and layoff
- New federal paid sick leave or paid family medical leave
- Requests for accommodations to allow remote work for essential businesses or after the state-wide stay at home order is lifted
- Avoid bankruptcy for as long as possible
- Prepare documents, reports, and disclosures necessary to most efficiently file and work through the bankruptcy process for businesses or individuals, including business owners who guaranteed business obligations
- Protect assets, defend against mortgage foreclosure
WELCOME DAVID J. BEN-DOV
We are pleased to announce that David J. Ben-Dov has joined the firm as a partner. David is a valued legal and business counselor who focuses on complex business litigation. He brings over 20 years of experience representing clients in a wide array of litigation matters, including cases involving breach of contract, real estate, fraud, leases, warranty claims, trust disputes, post-judgment enforcement, and eminent domain proceedings. He also represents clients in the full spectrum of employment law, including the defense of employers in cases filed under the various employment statutes, the representation of executives in compensation disputes, internal investigations, and matters relating to the negotiation and litigation of restrictive covenants in employment agreements.
David earned his undergraduate degree in economics and history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and law degree from Chicago-Kent College of Law. When he is not in the courtroom, David is an avid cyclist. Through that hobby, David has been a longtime supporter of the National MS Society with his involvement in Bike MS: Tour de Farms, where he has been recognized as a “Gold Spoke” as one of its top fundraisers.
We are honored to have David join us and we look forward to having him serve our clients.
OUR FOCUS ON YOUR SUCCESS IS MORE THAN JUST OUR TAGLINE. IT IS OUR MISSION AND OUR COMMITMENT TO OUR CLIENTS. WE WOULD LIKE TO SHARE A CLIENT’S SUCCESS STORY THAT DEMONSTRATES THAT COMMITMENT.
FOCUS: Intellectual Property
SUCCESSFUL COPYRIGHT LAWSUIT AGAINST AN INFRINGING COMPETITOR
CHALLENGE: A client’s website contains creative descriptions and videos for the sale of custom logo imprinted goods. A competitor downloaded the client’s entire website, uploaded the contents to its own website and simply replaced the trademarks and contact information.
Our STRATEGY: At GCT, we are protective of our clients and their business interests, and work with them to prepare for potentialities. Prior to the competitor’s actions, we had helped the client register the copyright for the creative content on the client’s website. When we were made aware of the situation, GCT served the competitor with a cease and desist letter, which the competitor ignored. GCT then filed suit against the competitor for copyright infringement. Because the content had been protected by copyright registrations prior to the infringement, our client was able to seek statutory damages and attorneys’ fees in addition to obtaining injunctive relief.
RESULTS: GCT negotiated a settlement agreement, which provided for the competitor removing our client’s content and paying a settlement amount that included statutory damages and attorneys’ fees.
For more stories about focus and success, please visit our website: GCT.LAW/SUCCESS