Coronavirus and How it Affects your Contracts!

As the number of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the United States and Internationally continues to rise, many business owners are feeling the effects of quarantines, social distancing, travel bans, and more. In the short amount of time since the virus has emerged, businesses, especially in the hospitality and service industries, have experienced significant and devastating disruption.

What is a Force Majeure Clause?

A Force Majeure clause is a provision in a contract that allows for a party to suspend or terminate the performance of its obligations when certain circumstances beyond their control arise, making performance inadvisable, commercially impracticable, illegal, or impossible.

Examples of Force Majeure events include war, riots, fire, flood, hurricane, typhoon, earthquake, lightning, explosion, strikes, lockouts, slowdowns, prolonged shortage of energy supplies, and acts of state or governmental action prohibiting or impeding any party from performing its respective obligations.

Force majeure clauses must be clearly stated in the Contract and are interpreted strictly.

Is Coronavirus a Force Majeure Event?

The severe disruption to businesses around the world, resulting from the effects of Coronavirus (both physical and emotional), are clearly affecting business owner’s ability to function in the declining economy.  In approaching business operations and all the contracts that accompany the same, you may be wondering “can I get a break” and the Force Majeure clause may be the way to get just that. While unfortunately Coronavirus is not likely to be specifically stated in your clause, as it is a world event unanticipated in our lifetime, it can most certainly be argued that, depending on the business sector, the response to the Coronavirus (such as mandatory lockdowns, social distancing, and business closures) are in fact acts of government which are impeding a party from performing its respective obligations. It may not fully excuse non-performance or cancel existing contracts, but in some cases may defer or alter the terms.

What Does this Mean for Me?

For these reasons it is vital that business owners carefully review the language of their agreements, and not simply choose not to perform and expect to escape without consequences.  In entering this uncharted territory of business operations in a consumer panicked society, it is important the business leaders in the industry stay calm and solution oriented by doing the following:

Detailed Review – Review every contract you have that requires some form of fulfillment of goods or services, or some sort of financial action or commitment over the next 6 months.

Be Proactive – Reach out to your business contacts regarding the impact of the Coronavirus. It is likely that they too have felt the effects and discussing how to mitigation potential damages is valuable to all parties.

Modify your Clause – Whilst the world hopes that we never see another pandemic as tragic as Coronavirus, this should be a wakeup call for all contract participants to ensure that the Force Majeure clause is included in every contract and shall include the extreme scenarios.

Retain Legal Assistance – If you, your business, your real estate, or your pending construction is at risk, contact Gulati Law to discuss your options. As a firm with vast experience dealing with contract delays, performance challenges, payment concerns and force majeure clauses we have the skills to assist you through this difficult time and preserve your current relationships. Most importantly stay safe!

Service Animals and the ADA!

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), a “service animal” is only a dog that is individually trained, works or performs tasks for individuals with physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disabilities. The task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.

It is important for the hospitality industry to understand what qualifies are a service animal under the ADA. The ADA does not recognize comfort animals, therapy animals, or companion animals. An animal whose sole function is to provide therapy is not a “service animal” under ADA.

How to verify?

In situations where it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal, staff may ask only two specific questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability? and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform? Staff are not allowed to request any documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate its task, or inquire about the nature of the person’s disability.

The ADA requires that service animals be under the control of the handler at all times. In most instances, the handler will be the individual with a disability or a third party who accompanies the individual with a disability. The service animal must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered while in public places unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the person’s disability prevents use of these devices. In that case, the person must use voice, signal, or other effective means to maintain control of the animal.

For example, a person who uses a wheelchair may use a long, retractable leash to allow her service animal to pick up or retrieve items. She may not allow the dog to wander away from her and must maintain control of the dog, even if it is retrieving an item at a distance from her. Or, a returning veteran who has PTSD and has great difficulty entering unfamiliar spaces may have a dog that is trained to enter a space, check to see that no threats are there, and come back and signal that it is safe to enter. The dog must be off leash to do its job, but may be leashed at other times. Under control also means that a service animal should not be allowed to bark repeatedly in a lecture hall, theater, library, or other quiet place. However, if a dog barks just once, or barks because someone has provoked it, this would not mean that the dog is out of control.

There are specific rules under the ADA that are tailored specifically to hoteliers and public service accommodations. Please contact us, your business law attorneys for more information. Staying informed helps limit ingenuine service animals and support and welcome your guests and comply with ADA.

Source: ADA

Americans with Disabilities Act Lawsuits Impacting Hotel Owners

It has come to our attention through our clients and other Hotel Owners/Hotel Management, that there has been a significant increase in the number of lawsuits against hoteliers for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (hereinafter “ADA”). A typical scenario is that a single plaintiff files over 50 lawsuits against hoteliers in a specific geographic region that has been inspected. In each of these cases, the plaintiff’s central issue focused on pool lift regulations. It is therefore extremely important for hoteliers to understand the ADA requirements and what you need to do to comply with the law. We have helped defend some of these lawsuits and had success helping our clients settle them, unfortunately this is something you cannot ignore.

“The United States Department of Justice has compiled a list of requirements to encourage compliance with pool lift regulations, a set of common questions and answers and checklist for lodging facilities. Knowing your rights and responsibilities is the best way for you to protect your businesses, your investments and your families from parties who are looking to exploit these issues to turn a quick profit at your expense.”

Please follow the links below to review these rules and ensure your hotel properties are compliant with the law:

ADA Pool Lift Requirements
ADA Checklist for New Lodging Facilities

As an Ambassador of the Florida Region of AAHOA and a Florida Hotel Attorney, Attorney Sarah Gulati, would love to hear all your concerns and issues regarding ADA lawsuits targeting pool lift compliance. 

hotel

Source: AAHOA bulletin~by Chip Rogers AAHOA President & CEO.

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