On July 1, 2020, an Ingham Michigan Judge dismissed a claim of first impression, ruling in favor of an insurer’s decision to deny business interruption coverage due to the finding that the insured business owner did not suffer a direct physical loss under the policy.

Similar to many lawsuits on this uniquely 2020 issue, the case (Gavrilides Management Company v. Michigan Insurance Company) focused on whether there was a “direct physical loss of or damage to the insured’s property” which would trigger the coverage for business interruption. This particular claim centered on a business owners’ two restaurants in Lansing Michigan in the amount of $650,000.

The insurer argued that the business interruption coverage kicks in by an occurrence that actually alters or damages the property, which apparently did not occur. The claimant argued that non-destructive losses are also covered by the policy. Continue Reading Recent COVID-19 Business Interruption Decision is a Win for Insurers

Trademark scams, as detailed in our earlier post here, are back with a vengeance. Because of the nature of these scams and the potential cost of falling for them, we felt it was time to address this topic again.

How Trademark Scams Work

Federal trademark applications and trademark registrations are public records. The United States Patent and Trademark Office maintains a searchable database of currently existing and expired trademarks. Among other information in the database is the name and address of the owner of a trademark application or registration, USPTO Serial and Registration Numbers, registration dates and even visual images of trademarks.

Scammers can obtain this information directly off the USPTO website and enter it into documents that look “official” and emanate from such “official” entities as World Trademark Register, United States Trademark Compliance Office, Patent & Trademark Bureau, United States Trademark Registration Office, and WTP Trademark Service.

Continue Reading Don’t Be the Victim of a Trademark Scam

The coronavirus has impacted more than an individual’s health and well-being. In the wake of this global pandemic, many businesses have been impacted — whether it be from an order from local or state government or because it has been directly hit with employees or customers who were diagnosed with COVID-19.

Businesses have had to grapple with the distinction between “essential” and “non-essential” and alter their budget to purchase PPE and other sanitary items. Projections for revenue for 2020 were obliterated in the process leaving business owners with difficult decisions in terms of whether it is worthwhile to remain open in a limited capacity, temporary closure, furloughs, layoffs, bankruptcy, or in some cases going out of business. The Payroll Protection Program instituted by the Federal Government has provided a temporary salve, however, in many cases business losses continue in big and small ways.

Business Interruption Insurance

The natural offshoot of this business and economic disruption for businesses is whether their business insurance coverage, for which its owners paid premiums month in and month out, ‘owe’ for business income lost, and additional expenses, due to a viral pandemic such as to COVID-19.

Multiple insurers are facing federal class action lawsuits for denying business interruption claims. Further, claims by business owners for business disruption losses have increased exponentially. This post endeavors to examine some of the issues that will be at the forefront for business owners, and carriers, as it pertains to COVID-19.

Coverage

Continue Reading What You Need to Know About COVID-19 and Business Interruption Insurance Coverage

An injured worker may seek to establish compensability of the contraction of COVID-19 under two legal theories:

  1. Exposure; and,
  2. Occupational disease.

Pursuant to Florida Statutes §440.02(1), an injury or disease:

caused by exposure to a toxic substance is generally not an injury or accident arising out of employment.”

Although this section has not been utilized in the context of a virus, it is assumed, for the purposes of this discussion, that the virus is considered a toxic substance.

Exposure

Continue Reading Is an employer liable for a workers’ compensation claim if an employee contracts COVID-19 at work?

Taxpayers have until today (July 15) to request an extension to file their 2019 federal tax return. If an extension is approved, taxpayers could have until October 15 to file, but any taxes owed are due by July 15.

Common Tax Return Errors

The IRS has noted the following common tax return errors:

  • Missing or inaccurate Social Security numbers
  • Math errors
  • Inaccurate filing status
  • Incorrect calculation of credits or deductions
  • Unsigned returns
  • Filing with an expired individual taxpayer identification number

The IRS highly encourages taxpayers to use the e-file or IRS Free File system. The IRS software will formulate calculations, flag common errors, and prompt taxpayers for missing information, all of which ultimately reduces tax return errors. A tax return containing errors can delay refunds.

What if I can’t pay my tax bill?

Continue Reading IRS Provides Tips for Last-Minute Tax Filers

In one of the most significant Supreme Court cases for Florida employers in many years, the U.S. Supreme Court held by a 6-3 margin that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (commonly known as “Title VII”) protects gay and transgender individuals from discrimination in the workplace. In the anxiously anticipated decision, which is a consolidation of three cases, the Court held in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, that Title VII’s prohibition against discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination because of an individual’s sexual orientation and gender identity. While the decision only addresses traditional claims of discrimination (plaintiffs were all fired from their jobs), employers should expect that the ruling will extend to claims of harassment as well. If you are a Florida employer, this decision likely means that you need to update, review, and discuss your employment policies with your employees.

New Protections

Until recently, the lower courts that had ruled on the issue routinely held that Title VII’s protections did not extend to discrimination against individuals who had adverse actions taken against them merely because they were gay or transgender. In fact, one of the consolidated cases came from the Eleventh Circuit, which had cited a long-standing lower court precedent in rejecting the claim of a gay male who was fired from his job in Georgia solely because his employer learned that he was gay. Florida is part of the Eleventh Circuit, and so gays were not protected under Title VII’s coverage in Florida until today.

Continue Reading Supreme Court Holds that Civil Rights Law Covers LGBT Employees

June 4 Update

House Bill H.R. 7010 passed the Senate and is now on its way to the President to sign. In addition to amendments relating to the PPP loan program, the bill provides that the deferral of employment taxes is now available even for taxpayers who have PPP loans that re forgiven under the CARES Act. This will allow taxpayers who obtain PPP loans and intend to apply for loan forgiveness to also defer the applicable employment taxes.

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On May 13, 2020, the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) issued anxiously awaited guidance outlining the agency’s perspective on the good faith certifications made by Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) applicants. (See, PPP Frequently Asked Questions, #46).

PPP recipients of loans less than $2 million found relief in the SBA’s statement that it would deem those recipients to have made the certification in good faith.

For those with PPP loans at or above $2 million, the SBA will require the recipient to adequately support its certification. If the recipient fails to do so, the SBA indicated it will seek repayment of the loan in full, but the agency will not pursue administrative enforcement or refer the matter to other agencies.

Continue Reading SBA Issues New Guidance Addressing PPP Loan “Good Faith” Certification

Two Fort Myers tax lawyers will once again host a complimentary webinar to help the Southwest Florida community understand the tax law changes in light of the COVID-19 crisis. On Friday, May 1, 2020, from 12:00 to 1:00 pm, Lindsay Sablan, a journalist and WINK News morning anchor, will serve as moderator, with speakers attorney Shanthy Bala, the Tax Clinic Director and Supervising Associate at Florida Rural Legal Services, Inc., and Sara Qureshi, a business and tax attorney at Henderson, Franklin, Starnes & Holt, P.A., will present “Tax Law Changes Amidst COVID-19: Further Guidance Providing Relief to Individuals and Small Businesses” in association with the Lee County Bar Association and its Pro Bono Committee.

This one-hour session will go over recent updates and frequently asked questions regarding federal tax relief available for individuals and businesses during COVID-19, including questions that were submitted to the clinic after the last webinar on April 3rd. Questions may be submitted in advance by email to Shanthy.Bala@FRLS.org.

Continuing Education

Continue Reading May 1 Webinar to Provide Guidance on COVID-19 Tax Relief for Individuals and Small Businesses

April 21 Update

Unfortunately, the grant application process is closed. Carolyn Cawley President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation stated in a letter:

We received more than 15,000 applications in minutes and, while we will begin awarding grants this week based on existing donations, we are no longer able to accept applications. Those who did submit an application will be notified if it results in a grant.”

A link for additional resources may be found here.

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If you own a small business and missed the first round of SBA funding, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is offering a helpful alternative called the Save Small Business Fund. Through the Save Small Business Fund, eligible small businesses can receive $5,000 grants to use towards business expenses.

To be eligible for the grant, you must:

  1. Run a small business or chamber of commerce with between 3-20 employees, including yourself,
  2. Your business must be located in an economically vulnerable community based on the zip code of your business address, and
  3. Your business must have been financially harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Continue Reading COVID-19: U.S. Chamber Will Begin Accepting Grant Applications Today to Save Small Businesses

While COVID-19 rightfully dominates news coverage and Henderson, Franklin has been providing our clients with information, updates and links to resources to help get through this, we also recognize that the mundane is sometimes just as important. Thus, in a world without Major League Baseball, the NBA, NHL, NASCAR or F1, we offer our own unique sports coverage, with an intellectual property slant.

Tom Brady Leaves Boston, Files Trademarks Applications

After 20 storied years with the New England Patriots, Tom Brady turned his back on the franchise, his fans and six Lombardi Trophies to sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is undoubtedly a bitter pill for New England fans to swallow, who will now have to get used to mediocre football. (Patriot fans, please see Chicago Bears for guidance).

On the other hand, with his place in the Hall of Fame secure, Brady was looking for new challenges. Specifically, it appears, the challenge of brand extension. Almost as soon as the ink dried on his new contract with Tampa Bay, Brady’s management, TEB Capital Management, Inc., filed applications to register the trademarks TOMPA BAY and TAMPA BRADY with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The trademark applications identify the goods the mark will appear on, specifically all the clothing, hats and footwear that Tampa Bay fans are rushing out (at least online!) to buy. Time will tell whether Brady can repeat his on-field success with Tampa Bay, but it is certain that his off-field brand strengthening moves will allow him to throw from a deep pocket.

Nature Boy Down for the Count Continue Reading The Sports Page