As businesses begin to open their doors again, there are many questions, including legal liability risks, that come with reopening in light of COVID-19. As of May 22, a large national firm has identified nearly 2,300 COVID-19 related claims, a clear sign this risk is not “hypothetical.”
So far, we have general guidelines from the federal government, but the states have been tasked with the final decision on reopening requirements and regulations, which makes it difficult because they will vary state-by-state.
In South Carolina, most restaurants, gyms, salons, and other close-contact businesses were allowed to reopen last week, but were given eight pages of suggested guidelines. In contrast, North Carolina allowed restaurants and personal care services, like hair salons, to reopen, but has provided a lengthy list of businesses that must remain closed, like bars, nightclubs, indoor fitness facilities, public playgrounds and indoor entertainment facilities, like movie theaters and bowling.
Further, NC requires that customer occupancy be limited to 50% of the fire capacity. Georgia has the most liberal position, as it allowed all businesses to reopen in late April.
In deciding to reopen, businesses must balance the need to generate revenue with the need to protect the health of employees and clients. If someone claims to have contracted COVID-19 due to acts or omissions of the business, employment claims, Workers’ Compensation claims, personal injury claims, and potentially wrongful death claims can be implicated.
The mitigation of this risk, based upon the differing regulations and guidelines, has to be determined on a state-by-state basis. “In South Carolina, a COVID-19 Workers’ Compensation claim is likely to be diverted to the Worker’s Compensation system, which can limit exposure for the business. This may not be true for other states,” says Casey Martens, an employment lawyer for the Kim & Lahey Law Firm.
“Failure to follow basic guidelines, such as the CDC’s, could result in negligence claims, such as the business breaching its duty to provide a safe work environment, or failure to provide proper equipment,” says Martens, “These risks are increased for businesses that rely upon close customer contact, like restaurants, salons, retail and other businesses with frequent customer interactions. The risk to the business is not just from the customer, but from the employee as well.”
There is also a risk associated with a business’s reputation and customer confidence in the business. “A business’s brand is one of its most valuable assets,” says Douglas Kim of the Kim & Lahey Law Firm. “For example, the most valuable brand in the United States is reported to be Apple at $316 billion, followed by Google at $313 billion.” So, understanding the significant risk of a negative news article reporting an employee or client contracting COVID-19 in your establishment should not be underestimated as businesses consider reopening.
Reopening is not a simple or risk-free endeavor: it requires weighing multiple factors on deciding when and how to reopen. Factors to consider include the applicable guidelines from federal, state, and local regulatory and health organizations (e.g. from the CDC to the Greenville City Council). Guidelines and safety protocols vary from business to business and state to state, and failure to follow them can significantly increase the risk to businesses. Business owners should also keep in mind that regulations, protocols and guidelines are constantly changing. It is important to be aware of all updates, and to communicate them to employees to give them the assurance and impression of compliance.
- First Response Training International is offering free training on everything from how a virus spreads to utilizing personal protective equipment (PPE) and even documentation and cleaning procedures.
- For updated information regarding reopening in South Carolina after COVID-19, visit the accelerateSC website.
- Download the South Carolina Chamber’s new guide for employers operating during the pandemic: Business in the Era of COVID-19: A Guide for Moving Your Business Forward.
Like many young people, Logan LaMance had a decision to make his freshman year in college. He could continue focusing on freedom and fun or get serious and shoot for the stars. He chose the latter and it paid off. This Sunday, Logan and his partners at Kanga, LLC, will appear on Shark Tank. Their pitch? Kanga’s Kase Mate is described as a “koozie for a case of beer.” Their marketing slogan is, “Kooler than a cooler and keeps drinks cold for up to 7 hours without ice.” You get the point, but how did they get to this point?
Logan was born and raised in Pickens, SC. He started taking classes at Clemson during fall 2014. Logan says it was the end of that first semester when he realized he needed a change in direction. The following semester he was part of an internship program lead by Young Entrepreneurs Across America, that teaches students how to start and run a business. It was a house painting business called Student Painters, LLC.
Logan worked harder over the next two years than he ever had before in his life. He put in between 30 – 40 hours per week on school work and every other waking moment was spent on his business. Logan said it was a tough place to be, both mentally and physically taxing, but he was driven and had a dream. He says, “The thing I am the proudest of is not that I brought the biggest business or made the most money, but that I fought through it, never quit and learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way.”
That’s when he caught the bug. After running a grueling, yet successful painting business with other students for two years, he was sick and tired of paint brushes, but he knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. During the spring of 2017, Logan took an entrepreneur class that would change his life. The class project was to create a solution for a problem that people face. Logan says finding a good idea wasn’t easy.
Then came football season. Logan and his friends were on their way to tailgate. They stopped to grab a couple 12-packs on the way. They all had coolers back at their apartments, but they didn’t want the hassle of carrying a heavy, clunky cooler a mile from home to the tailgate and back, which meant they ended up drinking warm beer before long. Logan thought to himself, “Why are we drinking warm beer? That’s a problem.” He had to find the solution next.
Logan says he saw someone take a cold beer out of a cooler and put it into a koozie and that’s when it hit him. Logan wondered, “Why don’t we have the same thing for the whole case? We got it from the fridge (what made it cold), why don’t we have something to put it in to keep it cold for the whole time we’re actually going to enjoy it?”
That’s how Kanga was born. He pitched the idea to his class and convinced them it was bigger than a class project. They created a prototype and worked with mentors through the Spiro Institute to take their idea and turn it into a business.
Doug Kim, Kanga’s intellectual property attorney of the Kim and Lahey Law Firm, says, “I met the owners of Kanga, LLC through my work with the Clemson Venture Program and was immediately impressed with their inventions, marketing acumen and business decisions. To see these business owners accomplish so much while also attending college, should be inspiring for everyone.”
Kanga started with a short run of 100 units to test the market and see if people would actually buy it, and they did. From there, Kanga won a first-place prize of $8,000 at Clemson’s “The Pitch Smackdown,” which Logan describes as a mini shark tank where they also picked up their first investor.
Fast forward to when Kanga had a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2018, and now, as they’re only two days away from appearing on the real Shark Tank on ABC. Logan says, “If we can do it with a koozie for a case of beer, image what other ideas can do.”
The Shark Tank episode airs at 10pm EST, Sunday, April 7.
This article is for informational purposes only. Any result achieved for one client does not necessarily indicate that similar results can be achieved for any other client. Kim and Lahey Law Firm, LLC has designated Douglas W. Kim as the person to contact for information regarding this article. He may be contacted at 864-973-6688 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Douglas Kim, a longtime intellectual property attorney in the Upstate area, has been selected to the 2019 South Carolina Super Lawyers list. Each year, no more than five percent of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor.
Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates and peer reviews by practice area. The result is a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.
Based in Greenville, South Carolina, Doug started his own law firm in March of 2018. Soon after, he partnered with longtime friend and colleague, Seann Lahey, in what is now the Kim and Lahey Law Firm, LLC. They assist clients, both domestically and internationally, who are looking to safeguard innovative ideas or inventions, secure their brand’s identity, or otherwise need to protect their business interests. They take a client-centric approach toward understanding a client’s needs in order to create customized legal solutions involving patents, trademarks, copyrights, trade secrets, enforcement, licensing, contracts, privacy policies, and website terms and conditions.
Doug also serves as the Chair of the South Carolina Bar Intellectual Property and Innovation Committee.
The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country. Super Lawyers Magazines also feature editorial profiles of attorneys who embody excellence in the practice of law. For more information about Super Lawyers, visit SuperLawyers.com.