High Burden of Proof Established for COVID-19 Exposure, Medical, and Products Liability Actions

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



covid19Covid-19 liability protections for businesses in Missouri become law effective August 28, 2021. The Missouri House voted to pass Missouri Senate Bill 51 in the final minutes of the 2021 legislative session.  The law establishes provisions related to COVID-19 exposure liability actions, COVID-19 medical liability actions, and COVID-19 products liability actions that will expire August 28, 2025.

COVID-19 Exposure Liability

Under Senate Bill 51, no business, service, activity, or accommodation will be liable in any COVID-19 exposure action, unless it is proven by “clear and convincing evidence” that “recklessness or willful misconduct” caused an actual exposure to COVID-19 resulting in personal injury.

  • “Recklessness” is defined as “a conscious, voluntary act or omission in reckless disregard of a legal duty and the consequences to another party.”
  • “Willful misconduct” is defined as “an act or omission that is taken intentionally to achieve a wrongful purpose or in disregard of a known or obvious risk that is so great as to make it highly probable that the harm will outweigh the benefit.”

While we do not know how broadly the courts will interpret these terms, taking actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as requiring mask-wearing, hand sanitizing, and social distancing, could all be helpful in defending a COVID-19 exposure case.  As for vaccinations, the law clearly states, that businesses are not required to establish a policy that requires or mandates vaccination or proof of vaccination to avoid COVID-19 exposure liability.

The new law allows for the presumption that an individual assumes personal risk when the business clearly posts the following message near its entrance: Continue reading »

Recent SEC Rule Amendments Will Make It Easier to Raise Money

Joseph R. Soraghan

By Joseph R. Soraghan



crowdfunding“We’re the SEC, and we’re here to make it easier for small businesses to raise capital. . . . Really, . . . we are . . . really . . . trust us.”

Unbelievable?? Yes, except for the past nine years. But its largesse arrived grudgingly under pressure from Congress in the JOBS Act of 2012, which in turn was due to pressure from the business and entrepreneurial community.

Since the adoption of the Securities Act in 1933, sales of investments by companies and entrepreneurs to investors to raise capital have required either registration with the SEC and states (a long expensive process that is not available to most new and/or small businesses), OR qualification for an “exemption” from the requirement.  The exemptions have historically been difficult and expensive to obtain and are also unavailable to many businesses.

But in the JOBS Act of 2012, Congress adopted 1) two new exemptions: Regulation Crowd Funding and an improved Regulation A (called “Regulation A+”); and, importantly, 2) a requirement for the SEC to modify many of the existing exemptions to significantly improve their availability.  The SEC has since structured the two new exemptions and on November 2, 2020 amended a number of the existing exemptions. The November 2 amendments became effective March 15, 2021. Some of the amendments are as follows: Continue reading »

Federal Judge Dabney Friedrich Vacates CDC Nationwide Eviction Moratorium

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock



eviction moratoriumOn May 5, 2021, Federal District Court Judge Dabney Friedrich in Alabama Association of Realtors, et al.  v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al., determined the Federal Public Health Service Act, which governs the federal government’s response to infectious diseases such as COVID-19, does not provide legal authority for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to impose a nationwide eviction moratorium. Originally set to lapse on December 31, 2020, the eviction moratorium is set to lapse on June 30, 2021. Judge Friedrich reasoned the Public Health Service Act unambiguously forecloses the nationwide eviction moratorium and issued an Order advising that the current CDC nationwide eviction moratorium issued is vacated.

The nationwide eviction moratorium was initially put in place in September 2020 under the Trump Administration and has been extended three times. Judge Friedrich indicated there was “no doubt” Congress intended to empower the CDC to combat COVID-19 through different measures, such as quarantines, but not a moratorium on landlord evictions.  Other federal courts have been divided over the CDC landlord eviction moratorium, with some also finding the CDC exceeded its authority, though none formally blocked its enforcement. The March 25, 2021 blog post “CDC Eviction Moratorium Declared Unconstitutional by Texas Court” discussed other recent rulings in Ohio and Texas: Continue reading »

Illinois Enacts New Restrictions for Considering Criminal History in Employment Decisions and Equal Pay Requirements

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



employmentEmployment law changes regarding human rights and equal pay have arrived in Illinois.  On March 23, 2021, Governor J.B. Pritzker signed into law S.B. 1480, which makes significant amendments to both the Illinois Human Rights Act (IHRA) and the Illinois Equal Pay Act (IEPA), effective immediately.

Criminal Conviction Record and Employment

S.B. 1480 amends the IHRA with more limitations on how an employer may use an employee’s or applicant’s criminal conviction record when making employment decisions. It is now a civil rights violation for any employer to use a criminal conviction record as a basis to refuse to hire, terminate, or take any other adverse employment action against the applicant or employee with two exceptions:

  1. There is a “substantial relationship” between one or more of the previous criminal offenses and the employment sought or held; or
  2. By granting or continuing employment, an “unreasonable risk” would exist “to property or to the safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public.”[1]

To determine whether a substantial relationship exists, an employer should consider whether the employment position “offers an opportunity for the same or a similar offense to occur and whether the circumstances leading to the conduct for which the person was convicted will recur in the employment position.”[2]

The new law also requires an employer to consider the following relevant factors when making this determination: Continue reading »

2021 Missouri Real Estate Taxes – And Appeals

William J. Bruin, Jr.

By William J. Bruin, Jr.



The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an extreme financial hardship on most, if not all, Missouri families. As such, many owners of real estate are investigating how best to reduce their outstanding financial obligations and save resources wherever possible.

property taxGiven this crisis, one obvious area to investigate is real estate tax liability. Missouri reassesses all real estate every odd-numbered year (e.g., 2019, 2021, etc.). In even-numbered years, local Missouri assessors normally allow values to remain unchanged from the prior odd-numbered year. 2021 is a reassessment year for all Missouri local assessors.

Real Estate Assessment

Real estate assessment is the process of local county assessors placing a fair market valuation and classification on all real estate. Missouri properties are divided into three classifications: commercial, residential, and agricultural. If the assessed valuation changes during the reassessment, the assessor sends out a Notice of Assessment to the taxpayer.

Appeal of Real Estate Valuation

Valuations are typically available in late spring to early summer. If you disagree with the county assessor’s valuation, you can appeal the property tax.  Appeals must be filed on or before the second Monday of July. In 2021, all appeals must be filed on or before Monday, July 12, 2021.

To file an appeal, obtain the proper real estate tax appeal forms (generally found on the local Board of Equalization (BOE) website). File the forms and submit evidence to support your opinion of the fair market value on your property to the local BOE.

Assessed Valuation

Once the fair market value of the property has been determined, the assessor must apply the appropriate percentage to the fair market value. In Missouri, commercial property is assessed at 32% of the fair market value as January 1 of the reassessment year. Residential property is assessed at 19% of the fair market value. Finally, agricultural property is assessed at 12% of the fair market value.

Real Estate Taxes 

The tax on real property is determined by the assessed valuation of the property multiplied by the actual tax rate set by the local government where the property is located.  Tax bills are generally mailed out annually in late fall with payment due on or before December 31. If real estate taxes are not paid when due, the taxes become a lien on the property with interest and penalties possibly added after January 1 of the following year.

Real Estate Tax Appeals: The Local BOE and Beyond Continue reading »

PPP Small Business Loan Application Deadline Extended … Again

Marcia Swihart Orgill

By Marcia Swihart Orgill



covid-19 financial helpThe deadline for applying for a PPP loan has been extended for another 60 days by the PPP Extension Act of 2021 (“Act”). Previously set to expire on March 31, the deadline is now May 31, 2021. The Act provides the SBA with an additional 30 days –  from June 1 through June 30, 2021 – to  process PPP loan applications submitted  by May 31, 2021.

For additional information on recent changes, click here. Continue reading »

American Rescue Plan Act Brings Changes to Employer Obligations

Jessica A. Gottsacker

By Jessica A. Gottsacker



layoff noticeApril 1, 2021 rings in new employer obligations with the enactment of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA). Employers and employees should take note of the recent changes to Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), and unemployment benefits to ensure compliance. We have highlighted those changes for you below.

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)

Between April 1, 2021 and September 30, 2021, employers must offer 100% subsidized COBRA continuation coverage to “assistance eligible individuals” (“AEIs”).  AEIs are any qualifying plan participants who lose, or have lost, health insurance coverage due to a reduction in number of hours of employment or involuntary termination. The government is expected to provide further guidance, but “involuntary termination” is currently defined as termination of employment for any reason other than “gross misconduct.”

Additionally, the following individuals may also be eligible for the subsidy:

  • Individuals previously eligible for COBRA continuation coverage which would have extended into the subsidy period under the ARPA who:
    • Did not elect COBRA coverage (e.g., an individual involuntarily terminated on March 30, 2020 who did not elect COBRA but would be within their 18-month coverage period if they had elected COBRA), or
    • Dropped COBRA coverage (e.g., an individual involuntarily terminated on March 30, 2020, who elected COBRA, but did not pay premiums after December 31, 2020 but are still within their 18-month COBRA coverage period).
  • Individuals who are or become eligible during the subsidy period (e.g., an individual involuntarily terminated on March 15, 2021 or an individual involuntarily terminated on May 1, 2021)

The coverage extends to the employees, their spouses, and their dependent children. Similar to the standard COBRA eligibility, once an AEI becomes eligible for other group health insurance coverage or Medicare, they must notify their employer of their loss of eligibility or face a penalty.

Under ARPA, employers are required to provide several new notices to those who become eligible for COBRA continuation coverage by May 31, 2021. (The DOL is scheduled to issue model notices by May 10.)

In addition to the current COBRA notice requirements, the initial notice should include the following information: Continue reading »

Bankruptcy Options for Your Troubled Small Business

A. Thomas DeWoskin

By A. Thomas DeWoskin



Part 4 of a 5-part series: Options for Small Business Owners in Financial Distress

turbulenceIf you’re a small business owner in financial distress, you’re undoubtedly looking for options for your business to have a better chance of surviving the pandemic and other economic surprises of the recent year. In the first three parts of this five-part series, we’ve looked at ideas for improving your business operations, discussed the importance of the availability of cash and improving your cash flow, and reviewed non-bankruptcy options to restructure your debts.

However, you and your attorney may conclude that none of those options meet your needs and it is time to consider a formal bankruptcy filing under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

Forms of Bankruptcy Relief

Before getting into details, let me make a suggestion: Don’t be too hard on yourself. It is rare for a business to fail because of only one issue. Even if your actions contributed to the problem, there were most likely other factors beyond your control involved as well. Besides, bankruptcy may provide a chance for you to fix what went wrong.

Another consideration is that the old stigma of filing a bankruptcy case has largely dissipated over the past few decades. Our Founding Fathers realized that the old European use of a debtors’ prison was unworkable and that a structured mechanism to help financially strapped people and businesses navigate a “soft landing” was needed instead. As a result, there actually is a provision in the U.S. Constitution requiring the Congress to make “uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States.”

If you feel embarrassed about filing a bankruptcy, compare it to taking a tax deduction. It’s another example of financial relief provided by statute to individuals and businesses. It’s there for you to use, and there’s no reason to feel guilty for doing so.

The Bankruptcy Code provides for several different types of bankruptcy filings: Continue reading »

CDC Eviction Moratorium Declared Unconstitutional by Texas Court

Brian Weinstock

By Brian Weinstock



eviction moratoriumOn February 25, 2021 the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas granted plaintiffs’ (landlords’ and property managers’) Motion for Summary Judgment, ruling that decisions to enact eviction moratoriums rest with the states. In Lauren Terkel, et al. v. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al., the court ruled that the federal government’s Article I power under the U.S. Constitution to regulate interstate commerce and enact necessary and proper laws (Necessary and Proper Clause) “does not include the power” to order all evictions be stopped during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an eviction moratorium order in September 2020 which was set to expire on December 31, 2020. Initially extended to January 31, 2021, the Order was then extended to March 31, 2021.  The CDC Order “generally makes it a crime for a landlord or property owner to evict a ‘covered person’ from a residence” provided certain criteria are met. Under the CDC Order, the tenant(s) must submit a Declaration, signed by the tenant(s) and served on the landlord, and requires the tenant(s) to make their best efforts to obtain governmental assistance before they can obtain status as a covered person to avoid an eviction. The landlord is not required to notify the tenant that they can execute a CDC Declaration to obtain status as a covered person.  The CDC’s Order also grants the Department of Justice (DOJ) authority to initiate criminal proceedings and allows the imposition of fines up to $500,000 against landlords who violate the Order after receiving a CDC Declaration from all tenants on the premises. Continue reading »

Non-Bankruptcy Ideas for Helping Your Troubled Small Business

A. Thomas DeWoskin

By A. Thomas DeWoskin



Part 3 of a 5-part series: Options for Small Business Owners in Financial Distress

turbulenceIn the first two parts of this five-part series on options for small business owners in financial distress, I suggested some ideas for improving your business operations and the availability of cash so that your small business would have a better chance of surviving the pandemic and other economic surprises of the recent year. In this Part 3, I suggest some ideas on using non-bankruptcy options in an effort to restructure your debts. We will discuss several bankruptcy options in Part 4.

Non-Bankruptcy Options for Restructuring Your Debt

  1. Informal Workouts

If your business has 1) maintained good relationships with its creditors, especially its primary lenders, and 2) doesn’t have too many creditors, it may be able to work itself out of its financial troubles. Secured creditors, of course, must be treated with full respect for their security interests in the business assets. Unsecured suppliers of critical goods and services also must be treated with care, as their cooperation may be needed at some point in the future.

It is often useful to obtain an appraisal of your business assets, both real and personal, from well-respected appraisers experienced in their fields. The appraisal should value the assets at three levels: forced liquidation value, orderly liquidation value, and fair market value. These values will enable you to intelligently discuss the likelihood of collection in different situations.

Another useful action would be to hire a consultant. Sometimes business owners cannot see opportunities for improvement which are right in front of them simply because they think that the current practice works well. The consultant can help you review your company’s operating procedures, cash flow procedures, and pricing structure to look for opportunities to increase profitability. Continue reading »