Articles Posted in Coronavirus

2020 has been a difficult year for all. With the approval of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccinations, there is a mix of hope and fear across the country. Four out of ten people have stated that they will not get the vaccine, based on concerns over the safety of the COVID-19 vaccines. Most of the concerns stem from the fact that these mRNA vaccines were created and approved in less than one year, when it typically takes years to develop the vaccine, and test its safety, as reactions may occur months or years down the road. In fact, prior to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (“COVID-19” or “2019-nCoV”) vaccine, the quickest turnaround for a vaccine was four-years for the mumps vaccine. With such a quick turnaround, (only eight months) there are concerns about adverse reactions, allergic reactions, and the long-term effects of the vaccines. Moreover, with mRNA vaccines being a new “vaccinology”, little is known about the long-term impact of these vaccines on our health.

As the Supreme Court of the United States recognized, vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe”, so many are curious to know, if you are injured, is there any recourse? The short answer is yes, but not against the vaccine manufacturers, administrators, or the FDA directly.

Vaccine manufacturers have been protected from liability for decades, dating back to 1986. Another layer of protection was added in 2005, when the Bush Administration signed into law the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, which authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) to declare that a vaccine manufacturer, along with others involved with the creation and distribution of the vaccine, are immune from liability for claims of loss or injury caused by the administration of the vaccine. This immunity is active for four years, but can be extended. The only exception to this immunity is if there is “willful misconduct” by the company. HHS Secretary Alex Azar invoked the PREP Act in February 2020 to protect COVID-19 manufacturers, distributors, developers, and administrators.

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices has represented investors who’ve suffered investment losses at the hands of financial and investment advisers who churned and burned their accounts. One of the most prevalent abuses in the securities industry is excessive trading, or “churning” client accounts. This practice, which is forbidden by industry regulators like FINRA and the SEC, is done to generate commissions, almost always at the expense of the client. As the stock market swings wildly during the Covid-19 pandemic, brokers take advantage by trading their clients’ accounts to generate commissions.

Brokers can open the door to churning by asking customers if they want an “active” trading strategy, which gives brokers discretionary ability to trade at will. Unless clients give specific directions on how and when to trade, brokers may take the opportunity to trade excessively and charge needlessly high commissions.

Churning has been the subject of numerous regulatory actions over several decades. Broker Frank Venturelli, a representative for First Standard in Red Bank, New Jersey, was cited by FINRA for excessive trading between 2016 and 2018. According to FINRA settlement, clients lost more than $373,000 during that period. Venturelli was suspended from the industry for 11 months and ordered to pay partial restitution of $30,000 to his clients.

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices has represented investors who’ve suffered losses from dealing with unscrupulous investment brokers selling exchange-traded products. Many of these high-risk products are unsuitable for retail investors.

With the COVID-19 crisis roiling financial markets, many investors have been sold products that rise when market indexes or individual securities fall. Many “exchange-linked products” (ETPs) often use borrowed money, or leverage, to magnify gains when the market drops, but they can also increase losses. They are generally only suitable for sophisticated investors and are linked to complex underlying futures contracts.

When the coronavirus crisis first made major headlines in the U.S. in early March, the stock, bond and commodities markets crashed. Since markets over-react to widespread greed and fear, traders went into mass selling mode over (later justified) expectations that demand for nearly everything from luxury goods to commodities would drop dramatically.

Stoltmann Law Offices, P.C. located in Chicago, Downers Grove, and Barrington, Illinois is investigating claims for Illinois businesses that have been shuttered or curtailed due to COVID-19 Coronavirus civil authority orders.  On Sunday, March 15, Governor J.B. Pritzker issued an executive proclamation ordering all Illinois bars and restaurants to close to in-dining customers. Although these companies can still stay open and cater to carry-out and delivery customers, there is no question many restaurants and bars will suffer potentially cataclysmic losses.  It is in situations like this, when paying all of those insurance premiums, could pay off.

Most businesses have some form of commercial property insurance coverage or some other policy that may cover losses attributable to business interruption due to civil authority orders.  These policies are usually riddled with exceptions and the language of each policy is the determining factor here. Insurance carriers will undoubtedly rely on various exclusionary language to deny claims outright.  However, depending on the language of your policy, your business could have a viable claim against the insurer for damages in connection with the closure of your business due to a civil authority order.  What Governor Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot did on Sunday, effective immediately, to bars and restaurants across the state of Illinois and City of Chicago, constitutes civil authority orders.

It is situations like this current crisis where insurance companies should step up and pay the claims of those businesses that had civil authority order business interruption protection. However, insurance companies don’t get their names on all of those tall buildings downtown because they write checks readily. In order to impose the obligations of your insurance coverage on your insurance carrier, you will need a lawyer to file a formal demand and likely a lawsuit for a declaratory judgment. What this means is, the business owner, the insured, files a complaint in court against the insurance company, the insurer, seeking a declaration from the court that the losses at issue are covered by the terms of the insurance policy. This is not a quick fix, and could take considerable time especially in Cook County. But if you have business interruption protection, it would certainly be worth a shot.  It is definitely time to dig up all of those insurance policies and see what protections your business has been paying for.

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