Does Business Interruption Insurance Cover COVID-19 Losses?

Jeffrey R. Schmitt

By Jeffrey R. Schmitt



Authored by Jeffrey R. Schmitt, with assistance from Haley E. Gassel, law clerk

business interruptionBusiness interruption coverage is like most insurance for small businesses – we pay for it with the hope we never need it. The coverage is intended to protect against revenue lost after a business experiences a covered peril or event which results in a temporary closure. Often this involves a casualty event like a fire or flood, or the inability to operate due to loss of utilities or information systems.

However, businesses across the country have filed claims with their insurers seeking business interruption coverage for COVID-related losses.  This is a theory that, fortunately, most businesses have never had to claim in the past. Some claims have found their way to the courts for determination. The issue often boils down to whether there is physical loss or damage to the policyholder’s business location to trigger business interruption coverage. Some policies include coverage for communicable diseases as well.

While most business interruption coverage lawsuits have not concluded, some recent decisions by federal courts in Missouri have been favorable for businesses seeking coverage. This is due in part to ambiguities in the policies and the lack of prior court decisions involving business interruption claims based on a pandemic. In many ways, these are uncharted waters for the litigants and the courts. Continue reading »

Revisions to Punitive Damages in Missouri

Lauren L. Wood

By Lauren L. Wood



Authored by Lauren L. Wood with assistance from Haley E. Gassel, law clerk

personal injuryChanges have been made to punitive damages claims in civil actions filed in Missouri on or after August 28, 2020.

Under the revisions, Missouri Revised Statute Section 510.261 now prohibits parties from making a claim for punitive damages in their initial pleading in a civil action. Any claimant who wishes to add a punitive damages claim to a civil action must file a written motion to amend 120 days prior to the pretrial conference, or, if no conference is scheduled, 120 days prior to trial, seeking leave to bring a claim for punitive damages. The claimant seeking leave must provide exhibits, affidavits, and discovery materials establishing a reasonable basis for the recovery of punitive damages. Any party opposing leave may submit admissible evidence to demonstrate that the standards for a punitive damage award have not been met. The court may grant leave to add the punitive damages claim if it determines that a judge or jury could reasonably conclude, based on clear and convincing evidence, that the standards for a punitive damage award have been met. This statute has the effect of preventing meritless claims being made in litigation as well as saving both the time and money of the parties involved.

Substantive Changes and Clarifications

After clearing the hurdle of obtaining leave to bring a punitive damages claim, a claimant must satisfy the statute’s requirements to receive an award of punitive damages. To do so, RSMo  510.261(1) requires the claimant to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant “intentionally harmed the plaintiff without just cause or acted with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others.” The revised statute does three things:

  1. Codifies the original common law regarding punitive damages. In Klingman v. Holmes, 54 Mo. 304, 308 (1873), the first Missouri Supreme Court case allowing an award of punitive damages, the Court held that exemplary damages are only appropriate where an evil intent has manifested itself in acts. The court reasoned that under common law there must have been intent, or positive proof of malice, to justify granting punitive damages.
  2. Clarifies the requisite mental state of the defendant, to intentionally harm without cause or with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others. This gives the judge or fact finder a clear standard for determining whether the claimant is entitled to punitive damages.
  3. Codifies the “clear and convincing” burden of proof standard. The Missouri Supreme Court has previously adopted this standard, but it had yet to be codified.[1],[2] The clear and convincing burden of proof standard falls within the middle ground of the ordinary civil burden of proof standard, preponderance of the evidence, and the criminal law standard, beyond a reasonable doubt.

Nominal Damages Continue reading »

Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccines in the Workplace Update: Ruth Binger Interview

Ruth Binger

By Ruth Binger



covid vaccineRuth Binger spoke with KMOV Channel4 News about a possible increase in companies requiring the COVID-19 vaccination for their employees.

According to Ruth, the fact that the vaccination does not yet have FDA approval is keeping many companies from considering a mandatory vaccination policy at this time. To date, none of her clients have a mandatory policy in place. “I do think it’s changing a little bit because of the Delta variant, and now [companies are] thinking about whether or not they should have a mandatory policy.”

Ruth said that another concern employers about enforcing a mandatory COVID-19 policy is the national worker shortage. Continue reading »

COVID-19 Paid Sick and Family Leave Tax Credits Now Available

Jessica A. Gottsacker

By Jessica A. Gottsacker



covid tax creditThe American Rescue Plan of 2021 (ARP) is now providing a tax credit for paid sick or family leave related to COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccinations. Employers can claim tax credits for the wages paid to employees for paid leave due to issues arising from COVID-19, including leave taken to receive or recover from COVID-19 vaccinations, from April 1-September 30, 2021.

To be eligible, your business must have fewer than 500 employees. Tax-exempt organizations qualify as well as governmental employers, other than the federal government and any agency or instrumentality of the federal government that is not an organization described in section 501(c)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code. Additionally, self-employed individuals are entitled to similar tax credits.

Under ARP, employers may claim tax credits to cover the following: Continue reading »

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

Katherine M. Flett

By Katherine M. Flett



covid19The Missouri House voted to pass Missouri Senate Bill 51, which establishes provisions related to COVID-19 exposure liability actions, COVID-19 medical liability actions, and COVID-19 products liability actions, in the final minutes of the 2021 legislative session.  It was signed by Governor Parsons on July 7, 2021.  The new law will become effective on August 28, 2021, and expire on 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 »

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 »

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 (ARP). 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 ARP 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 ARP, 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 »

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 »