CCPA Class Action Lawsuits Are Coming. Are You Ready?

Confused man looking down at money worried

The only certainties in life are death, taxes and the CCPA class actions.

March 23, 2020
Daniel Schneider & Jeffrey Dennis – Newmeyer Dillion

The only certainties in life used to be death and taxes. In 2020, it would be safe to add California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) class actions to that "distinguished" list. On February 3, Barnes v. Hanna Andersson, LLC, N.D. Cal., Case No. 20-cv-00812, was filed in the Northern District of California, setting in motion the certainty that CCPA class actions are on their way, if not already here.* Filed on behalf of all California residents, the Barnes complaint alleges that between September and November 2019, clothing retailer Hanna Andersson and Salesforce, its online payment services provider, failed to properly safeguard the personally identifiably information (PII) of its customers after hackers stole customers' private information and posted it to the dark web for sale.

What You Need to Know

  • Under the CCPA, a data breach is any unauthorized access, theft or disclosure of a consumer's non-encrypted and non-redacted personal information that results from a company's failure to implement and maintain "reasonable" security procedures and practices. Here, the complaint alleges that the defendants failed to maintain reasonable security procedures and practices in order to protect the consumers' PII.
  • Although the CCPA is largely viewed as new law related to California consumers' privacy rights (and placement of subsequent obligations to companies doing business in California), the CCPA includes potentially draconian damages for a data breach permitted by unreasonable cybersecurity. Under the new law, an individual need not show any actual harm caused by a data breach, yet he/she may seek statutory fines of up to $750 per incident per individual in the event of a breach. Plaintiffs estimate that at least 10,000 California residents could have been affected by this breach, thereby exposing defendants to up to $7.5 million dollars in damages if proven true.
  • There exists a duty to monitor and ensure that third party organizations are properly safeguarding a company's data. During the course of the investigation into the breach, it was discovered that the Salesforce ecommerce platform was infected with malware which allowed the hackers to steal consumers' PII from Hanna Andersson's website.
  • The CCPA went into effect on January 1, 2020, yet enforcement by the California Attorney General is not allowed until July 2020. However, no such delay is required for private litigation under the data breach portion of the CCPA. Interestingly, although the complaint alleges that the data breach occurred in 2019, the court could choose to apply the CCPA but that is still yet to be determined.

While Barnes may be the first class action lawsuit to mention violation of the CCPA, it certainly will not be the last. In fact, numerous class actions lawsuits have been filed in the new year which either mention the CCPA or utilize CCPA-like language to style particular claims. As such, it is evident that the Plaintiffs' bar sees the CCPA as a potential for extensive class action litigation. Expect to see an ongoing deluge of class action litigation in California under the data breach portions of the CCPA. In addition, although the Barnes' plaintiffs may not be able to invoke the CCPA due to the data breach occurring in 2019 (before the CCPA took affect), Barnes serves as a stark reminder that implementing and maintaining reasonable data security is vital to defend a business against CCPA claims. Newmeyer Dillion can assist companies analyze their cyber risk profile, and provide access to experienced forensic teams which can ensure reasonable security exists in your organization.

*While Barnes does not yet expressly state a cause of action under the CCPA, relying upon violations of the California Unfair Competition Law in its place, we anticipate that an amendment will soon be filed to include a CCPA claim.

Daniel Schneider is a Partner in Newmeyer Dillion's Privacy & Data Security group. Focused on advocating on behalf of clients when cyber threats inevitably happen, Dan also advises on best practices to help protect the company and mitigate future concerns. Dan can be reached at daniel.schneider@ndlf.com.

Jeff Dennis (CIPP/US) is the Head of the firm's Privacy & Data Security practice. Jeff works with the firm's clients on cyber-related issues, including contractual and insurance opportunities to lessen their risk. For more information on how Jeff can help, contact him at jeff.dennis@ndlf.com.

About Newmeyer Dillion
For 35 years, Newmeyer Dillion has delivered creative and outstanding legal solutions and trial results that achieve client objectives in diverse industries. With over 70 attorneys working as a cohesive team to represent clients in all aspects of business, employment, real estate, environmental/land use, privacy & data security and insurance law, Newmeyer Dillion delivers holistic and integrated legal services tailored to propel each client's success and bottom line. Headquartered in Newport Beach, California, with offices in Walnut Creek, California and Las Vegas, Nevada, Newmeyer Dillion attorneys are recognized by The Best Lawyers in America©, and Super Lawyers as top tier and some of the best lawyers in California and Nevada, and have been given Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review's AV Preeminent® highest rating. For additional information, call 949.854.7000 or visit www.newmeyerdillion.com.


Savera Sandhu Joins Newmeyer Dillion As Partner

Two businessmen shaking hands

Sandhu's Addition Formalizes Newmeyer Dillion's Healthcare Industry Group

March 23, 2020
Newmeyer Dillion

Prominent business and real estate law firm Newmeyer Dillion is pleased to announce that Savera Sandhu has joined the firm's Las Vegas office as a partner. Sandhu's addition formalizes Newmeyer Dillion's Healthcare practice group, which will draw on the firm's existing strengths and service offerings in the healthcare industry.

"Newmeyer Dillion has been delivering services within the healthcare industry for many years, offering our premier legal services across a large range of sectors," said Office Managing Partner Nathan Owens. "We are excited to welcome Savera to our team, and believe her experience will help us to more broadly service the healthcare industry as we continue to work closely with companies in the Western region."

The firm's Healthcare practice will comprise attorneys from the firm's business, litigation, employment law and real estate practice groups, who have extensive experience advising the healthcare industry in the areas of state and federal regulatory compliance, general business matters, medical malpractice and litigation defense. Newmeyer Dillion offers a range of key legal services to healthcare clients including entrepreneurs, technology companies, physicians, dentists and other healthcare professionals, suppliers, medical device manufacturers, hospitals, physician groups, out-patient and long-term care facilities.

In addition to health care, Sandhu expands the firm's capabilities to service clients in the transportation, finance, entertainment and construction industries.

For over a decade, Sandhu has worked intimately with the healthcare industry as their legal advocate, offering solution-oriented approaches to the business side of healthcare. As a partner with the firm, Sandhu counsels a wide range of corporate and healthcare clients on business and litigation matters throughout the state and nationwide. Embracing the firm's commitment to propel businesses forward, she combines a deep knowledge of commercial litigation with finely-honed experience as a trusted legal advisor to Fortune 100 companies. She also brings a broad perspective to her work with healthcare clients, based on her exceptional knowledge of corporate law, healthcare litigation, and state and federal regulatory matters.

Sandhu believes that her effectiveness as legal counsel is enhanced by her strong commitment to both her profession and to the communities where she lives and works. Dedicated to the tenets of diversity and inclusion rooted in the firm's culture, she has held leadership roles as a long-time member of the Southern Nevada Association of Women Attorneys (SNAWA) and the South Asian Bar Association.

Sandhu received her B.A. from the University of Washington and her J.D. from Seattle University School of Law.

About Newmeyer Dillion
For 35 years, Newmeyer Dillion has delivered creative and outstanding legal solutions and trial results that achieve client objectives in diverse industries. With over 70 attorneys working as a cohesive team to represent clients in all aspects of business, employment, real estate, environmental/land use, privacy & data security and insurance law, Newmeyer Dillion delivers holistic and integrated legal services tailored to propel each client's success and bottom line. Headquartered in Newport Beach, California, with offices in Walnut Creek, California and Las Vegas, Nevada, Newmeyer Dillion attorneys are recognized by The Best Lawyers in America©, and Super Lawyers as top tier and some of the best lawyers in California and Nevada, and have been given Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review's AV Preeminent® highest rating. For additional information, call 949.854.7000 or visit www.newmeyerdillion.com.


Determining the Cause of the Loss from a Named Windstorm when there is Water Damage - New Jersey

Cone bending in wind

Is water damage caused by a storm surge covered by the flood sublimit, or under the general policy or water limit?

March 23, 2020
Anna M. Perry - Saxe Doernberger & Vita

Water damage, while one of the leading causes of loss under a property policy, often results in some of the most complex claims due to the intersection of exclusions, sublimits, and complex wording within the policy. One particularly difficult issue is whether water damage caused by a storm surge is covered by the flood sublimit, or under the general policy or water limit. In New Jersey Transit Corp. v. Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s (“NJTC v. Lloyd’s”), the New Jersey Appeals Court found that the “flood” sublimit of the policy should not apply as the cause of the loss was a “named windstorm” and not a “flood.”

In NJTC v Lloyd's the court was asked to determine whether a flood sublimit applied to losses sustained during Superstorm Sandy. The court found that although there was “flooding,” the water damage was more closely related to the “named windstorm”, and therefore, the $400 million policy limits should apply. The court focused its analysis on the definitions for “flood” and “named windstorm” and by applying the efficient proximate cause doctrine to determine which would apply.

When reviewing the definitions within the property policies, the court determined that although the loss would qualify under the definition of “flood,” the policy also contained a definition for “named windstorm” which “more specifically encompasses the wind driven water or storm surge associated with a ‘named windstorm’”1. In addition, the policy did not specifically state that “storm surge” associated with a “named windstorm” should be considered a “flood” event and fall under the “flood” sublimit.

Ms. Perry may be contacted at amp@sdvlaw.com


Design-Assist Collaboration/Follow-up Post

Businessman signing document

A follow-up article to Design-Assist an Ambiguous Term Causing Conflict in the Construction Industry.

March 16, 2020
John P. Ahlers - Ahlers Cressman & Sleight PLLC

Shortly after posting the blog article “Design-Assist an Ambiguous Term Causing Conflict in the Construction Industry,” I received an email from Brian Perlberg, the Executive Director and Senior Counsel for ConsensusDocs. He brought two ConsensusDocs forms to my attention: ConsensusDocs 541 Design Assist Addendum and ConsensusDocs 300 Integrated Form of Agreement (IFOA). In the ConsensusDocs model of “design-assist,” the lead design professional retains design responsibility but benefits from input and consultation from the construction team during design development. By contrast, in the design-build project delivery method, the constructor assumes design responsibility and liability for either the entire project design (design-build) or just a component of the design (delegated design).

The ConsensusDocs 541 document goal is to provide “accurate information concerning program, quality, cost, constructability and schedule from all parties.” It provides a range of standard and optimal services during design development that essentially shifts the curve of selecting the construction manager (CM) and most importantly, special trade contractors, to much earlier in the process, perhaps as soon as the owner’s program is developed. This opens a world of possibilities for the design and construction team to collaborate early and often. The design professional, however, does not abdicate its design responsibility or authority in this process. The ultimate goal is to end the all-too-common wasteful cycle of design and redesign that is common in construction projects.[1]

Mr. Ahlers may be contacted at john.ahlers@acslawyers.com


Wilke Fleury Secures Bid Protest Denial

Bowling ball striking pinballs

Wilke Fleury defended a bid protest.

March 16, 2020
Wilke Fleury LLP

After the City of Vacaville, following a sealed bid process, awarded a significant well drilling contract to Roadrunner Drilling & Pump Company, second-place bidder Nor-Cal Pump and Well Drilling filed a protest with the City on January 30, claiming that Roadrunner’s bid failed to meet certain requirements of the proposed contract. Roadrunner hired Wilke Fleury to defend the bid protest. After Wilke Fleury partner Dan Baxter transmitted a letter to the City explaining why the disgruntled bidder’s protest was factually and legally unsupported, the City—a mere nine days after receiving Dan’s letter—rejected the bid protest, and maintained its award of the project to Roadrunner as the lowest responsive and responsible bidder.

Wilke Fleury LLP

Read the full story...


Policyholders' Coverage Checklist in Times of Coronavirus

Insurance notebook file

The specific terms of the insurance policies and the way losses are documented and presented to insurance carriers will be pivotal in securing coverage for Coronavirus-related exposures.

March 16, 2020
Richard W. Brown & Andres Avila - Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C.

Every state but West Virginia have reported hundreds of Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in the U.S. More than half are in California, Washington, New York, and Massachusetts. The unprecedented social and economic impact of the Coronavirus makes it necessary for policyholders to keep open all lines of communications with their insurance brokers, insurance carriers, financial advisors, safety & compliance experts, and insurance coverage counsel even if it is not certain whether they will need to file insurance claims.

As always, the specific terms of the insurance policies and the way losses are documented and presented to insurance carriers will be pivotal in securing coverage for Coronavirus-related exposures, such as jobsite closures, stop-work orders, remote work mandated measures, business interruption, event cancelation, employees’ claims, among others.

Policyholders should consider the following checklist of key insurance coverage tasks to be better positioned to face the risks posed by the Coronavirus:

  • Pre-Loss Risk Management: A careful review of the policyholder’s insurance program may show coverage for the Coronavirus outbreak. Now is the time to assess, with the guidance of your brokers and insurance coverage counsel, the specific coverages in place. Policyholders may want to particularly review the terms and conditions of their Property, General Liability, Pollution, Directors & Officers, Professional Liability, Fiduciary Liability, as well as Event Cancelation Insurance coverages, among others depending on their specific business trade. For instance, Policyholders would want to assess, ahead of time, whether there are bacterial/virus/communicable diseases/pandemics exclusions in their policies. It is also relevant to review, with a keen eye, the insuring agreements and pose hypotheticals to stress test them and see how far coverage would go with respect to a Coronavirus exposure;

Reprinted courtesy of Richard W. Brown, Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C. and Andres Avila, Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C.
Mr. Brown may be contacted at rwb@sdvlaw.com
Mr. Avila may be contacted at ara@sdvlaw.com


Coronavirus and Business Interruption Coverage for Policyholders

March 16, 2020
Richard W. Brown & Andres Avila - Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C.

With a death toll of more than 2,700 and more than 80,000 infected, Policyholders’ measures and governmental efforts to contain the spread of the Coronavirus has interrupted business and disrupted supply chains worldwide. Policyholders fearing the threat of the Coronavirus to their normal business operations should review if their first-party insurance would respond to the Coronavirus threat.

Although lines of insurance typically held by individuals like health, workers compensation and life will likely cover Coronavirus-related claims, this is likely not the case for business interruption coverage. There are a number of potential obstacles to coverage for such business interruption losses. The most significant (and difficult to overcome) is that a Coronavirus-situation that negatively impacts business income, likely fails to satisfy the direct physical loss or damage to property requirement that is necessary to trigger such first-party coverage.

Reprinted courtesy of Richard W. Brown, Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C. and Andres Avila, Saxe Doernberger & Vita, P.C.
Mr. Brown may be contacted at rwb@sdvlaw.com
Mr. Avila may be contacted at ara@sdvlaw.com


Washington High Court Holds Insurers Bound by Representations in Agent’s Certificates of Insurance

Statute of liberty weighing scales

This ruling serves as a reminder of the significance and binding effect of agent representations.

March 16, 2020
Michael S. Levine & Michelle M. Spatz - Hunton Insurance Recovery Blog

In responding to a certified question from the Ninth Circuit in T-Mobile USA Inc. v. Selective Insurance Company of America, the Washington Supreme Court has held that an insurer is bound by representations regarding a party’s additional insured status contained in a certificate of insurance issued by the insurer’s authorized agent, even where the certificate contains language disclaiming any effect on coverage. To hold otherwise, the court noted, would render meaningless representations made on the insurer’s behalf and enable the insurer to mislead parties without consequence.

The certified question and ruling stem from T-Mobile USA’s appeal of the district court’s summary judgment ruling in favor of Selective Insurance Company on T-Mobile USA’s breach of contract and declaratory judgment claims. Selective issued the insurance policy at issue to a contractor of T-Mobile Northeast, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of T-Mobile USA. Through endorsement, the policy extended “additional insured” status to T-Mobile NE because the contract between T-Mobile NE and the insured required that T-Mobile NE be added as an additional insured. Additional insured status was not, however, extended to T-Mobile USA, as T-Mobile USA had not entered a written contract with the insured.

Reprinted courtesy of Michael S. Levine, Hunton Andrews Kurth and Michelle M. Spatz, Hunton Andrews Kurth
Mr. Levine may be contacted at mlevine@HuntonAK.com
Ms. Spatz may be contacted at mspatz@HuntonAK.com


You Cannot Arbitrate Claims Not Covered By The Arbitration Agreement

Person holding contract

if you want to make sure an arbitrator determines whether the claim is arbitrable if a dispute arises, you want to make sure that right is expressly contained in the arbitration provision.

March 16, 2020
David Adelstein - Florida Construction Legal Updates

Regardless of the type of contract you are dealing with, “[a]rbitration provisions are contractual in nature, and therefore, construction of such provisions and the contracts in which they appear is a matter of contract interpretation.” Wiener v. Taylor Morrison Services, Inc., 44 Fla. L. Weekly D3012f (Fla. 1st DCA 2019). This means if you want to preserve your right to arbitrate claims you want to make sure your contract unambiguously expresses this right. Taking this one step further, if you want to make sure an arbitrator, and not the court, determines whether the claim is arbitrable if a dispute arises, you want to make sure that right is expressly contained in the arbitration provision.

For example, in Wiener, a homeowner sued a home-builder for violation of the building code – a fairly common claim in a construction defect action. The homeowner’s claim dealt with a violation of building code as to exterior stucco deficiencies. The home-builder moved to compel the lawsuit to arbitration based on a structural warranty it provided to the homeowner that contained an arbitration provision. The structural warranty, however, was limited and did not apply to non-load-bearing elements which, per the warranty, were not deemed to have the potential for a major structural defect (e.g., a structural defect to load-bearing elements that would cause the home to be unsafe or inhabitable). The trial court compelled the dispute to arbitration pursuant to the arbitration provision in the structural warranty.

Mr. Adelstein may be contacted at dma@kirwinnorris.com


Updated 3/13/20: Coronavirus is Here: What Does That Mean for Your Project and Your Business?

Sick business woman in front of laptop

In the last two weeks, the U.S. has begun to suffer more direct impacts from coronavirus.

March 16, 2020
Alexander Gorelik, Joshua E. Holt, Brian N. Krulick, Shoshana E. Rothman, A. Michelle West, & Brian S. Wood - Smith Currie

The outbreak of COVID-19 (“coronavirus”) has wreaked a considerable human toll of death, physical suffering, fear, and anxiety internationally. Much of the fear and anxiety results from a lack of information or a full understanding about the spread of the disease, protection against infection, and treatment. At Smith, Currie & Hancock, we urge our clients, friends, and colleagues to take seriously, but calmly and prudently, the threat of this disease to protect yourselves, your loved ones, and your businesses. The first step in that process is to inform yourselves with reliable information. Toward that end, we direct your attention to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Coronavirus Disease 2019 website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

In addition to the human toll, coronavirus has caused substantial disruptions to economies worldwide. In that regard, the adage “a picture is worth a thousand words,” is particularly foreboding. Satellite images taken by the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of China at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak and approximately a month later show a dramatic decline in air pollution, signifying and illustrating a sharp decline in industrial activity and transportation caused by the disease.

Reprinted courtesy of Smith Currie attorneys Alexander Gorelik, Joshua E. Holt, Brian N. Krulick, Shoshana E. Rothman, A. Michelle West, and Brian S. Wood

Mr. Gorelik may be contacted at agorelik@smithcurrie.com
Mr. Holt may be contacted at jeholt@smithcurrie.com
Mr. Brian may be contacted at bnkrulick@smithcurrie.com
Ms. Shoshana may be contacted at serothman@smithcurrie.com
Ms. West may be contacted at amwest@smithcurrie.com
Mr. Wood may be contacted at bswood@smithcurrie.com


Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Guidance for Contractors

March 16, 2020
Levi W. Barrett, Steven M. Charney, Warren E. Friedman & Christopher B. Kinzel - Peckar & Abramson, P.C.

The Coronavirus has been the subject of an extraordinary amount of media coverage since the start of 2020. As we approach the end of the first quarter of the year, its impact on local and global economies and our way of life cannot be ignored. This Alert will provide the construction industry with guidance and recommendations for navigating commercial risk resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic.

The potential impacts of the Coronavirus to the construction industry are wide reaching. Consequences on a project site can include quarantines or other governmental actions resulting in impacts to the project work force. Offsite impacts can cover a much broader scope of issues including labor shortages at factories of manufacturers or fabrication facilities, resulting in production delays, transportation embargoes causing project supply issues, or governmental actions which inhibit manufacturing and production causing supply chain shortages and inabilities to service existing demands. So, what can contractors facing such impacts do to avoid losses, mitigate the impacts, and prepare for what’s to come?

Reprinted courtesy of Peckar & Abramson, P.C. attorneys Levi W. Barrett, Steven M. Charney, Warren E. Friedman and Christopher B. Kinzel
Mr. Barrett may be contacted at lbarrett@pecklaw.com
Mr. Charney may be contacted at scharney@pecklaw.com
Mr. Warren may be contacted at wfriedman@pecklaw.com
Mr. Christopher may be contacted at ckinzel@pecklaw.com


ABC Convention 2020 Rescheduled for Aug. 17-19

March 16, 2020
Beverley BevenFlorez – CDJ Staff

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) have decided to postpone this month’s ABC Convention to August. The seminar will include Keynote speakers, Opening Night Celebration, Networking Reception in the Exhibit Hall, National Craft Championships Competitor Viewing and Lunch, Construction Management Competition Presentation Viewing, Association Excellence Awards With Keynote Speaker, Careers in Construction Awards, and Closing Night Celebration.

August 17th-19th, 2020
The Music City Center
201 5th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37203


Texas Federal Court Upholds Professional Services Exclusion to Preclude Duty to Defend

Businessman in super hero pose wearing cape

A Texas federal court held that a professional services exclusion in a commercial general liability policy precluded Travelers’ duty to defend its insured.

March 16, 2020
Jeremy S. Macklin - Traub Lieberman Insurance Law Blog

In Project Surveillance, Inc. v. The Travelers Indemnity Company, No. 4:19-CV-03324, 2020 WL 292247 (S.D. Tex. Jan. 21, 2020), a Texas federal court held that a professional services exclusion in a commercial general liability policy precluded Travelers’ duty to defend its insured.

The underlying lawsuit was a wrongful death action brought by the family of a worker killed on a construction site. Project Surveillance was present at the construction site “to provide safety supervision or other services.” The underlying lawsuit alleged that Project Surveillance negligently failed to inspect or adequately inspect the project and failed to warn or adequately warn the decedent of a dangerous condition. The underlying lawsuit also alleged that Project Surveillance was negligent in failing to stop work.

At the time of the incident, Project Surveillance had commercial general liability insurance through Travelers and professional liability insurance through RLI. RLI agreed to defend Project Surveillance in the underlying lawsuit. Travelers, however, denied owing a duty to defend or indemnify based on an exclusion for “bodily injury” arising out of the rendering or failure to render any “professional service.” The Traveler policy defined the term “professional services” to mean any service requiring specialized skill or training, including “failure to prepare [. . .] any warning,” “supervision,” “inspection,” “control,” “surveying activity or service,” “job site safety,” “construction administration,” and “monitoring [. . .] necessary to perform and of [those] services.”

Mr. Macklin may be contacted at jmacklin@tlsslaw.com


Australians Back U.S. Renewables While Opportunities at Home Ebb

Solar energy panels

AustralianSuper, QIC and Cbus all made recent U.S. investments.

March 16, 2020
Natalia Kniazhevich & Matthew Burgess - Bloomberg

Some of Australia’s biggest funds are pouring money into U.S. clean-energy projects as they butt up against a shortage of green opportunities at home.

AustralianSuper, the country’s largest pension fund, recently joined Queensland Investment Corporation in a $1 billion funding round for Generate, a San Francisco-based green-finance company. And Construction and Building Unions Superannuation, another pension giant, made its first U.S. clean-power investments last year.

The investments come as the wildfires that charred an area about the size of New York State have put increasing pressure on funds to do more to fight global warming. The problem, investors say, is the Australian government isn’t promoting clean-energy development, leaving the nation without enough sizable projects to back.

“At this point the platforms of scale don’t exist in Australia,” said Nik Kemp, head of infrastructure at AustralianSuper. “The size of the U.S. market makes for a much larger market and much better long-term growth opportunities.”


Risk-Adjusted Cost: A New Frontier in Construction

March 16, 2020
Justin Levine - Construction Executive

Successful general contractors understand that accurate cost estimates are essential to both project and organizational success. For decades, the cost of construction has been a function of marketplaces: labor, materials, insurances and fees. However, given increasing project complexity and greater technological capabilities, this reality is changing. The need to both understand and quantify the risk in performing complex projects will shape the way cost estimates evolve in the very near future.

WHY ACCURATE COST ESTIMATES ARE CRITICAL

It is safe to say that cost overruns have become common across the construction industry. According to a study from KPMG, just 31% of all construction projects from the past three years have been completed within 10% of their initial budget.

Reprinted courtesy of Justin Levine, Construction Executive, a publication of Associated Builders and Contractors. All rights reserved.


Is Your Business Insured for the Coronavirus?

Pen resting on insurance policy

It's never too early to start thinking about risk transfer and how to minimize exposure for the losses and claims that are certain to follow in the wake of this contagion.

March 16, 2020
J. Kelby Van Patten & Jared De Jong - Payne & Fears

How bad will the pandemic get? How much will it spread in the United States? Will we develop a vaccine in time to do any good?

As insurance lawyers, we have no idea. But we can help you figure out whether your business is insured for the coronavirus risks that keep business owners up at night.

Risk 1: An outbreak forces my business to close until the outbreak ends. Are my financial business losses covered?

Maybe. Many commercial property policies provide “business interruption coverage” which may apply.

This coverage typically requires that:

(i) Your business is shut down. If your business actually closes for a period of time, you may meet this requirement. However, you wouldn’t meet it if your business slows because half of your staff is home sick.

(ii) The shutdown is necessary. “Necessary” means something different than “desirable” or “prudent.” Whether a shutdown is necessary depends on the facts. If it is physically or legally impossible to enter your building, then closure is necessary. But if the government issues a public advisory recommending that businesses close, and you voluntarily comply, that’s a different story.

(iii) The shutdown is caused by physical damage to your property. Is a viral outbreak “damage” to your property? There’s not a clear answer. On the one hand, courts have found that hazardous contamination of a building constitutes property damage to the building. For example, asbestos incorporated into a building constitutes property damage to the building under a commercial general liability policy. Environmental contamination can also constitute property damage to the contaminated property. Policyholders whose businesses close during an outbreak will argue that property contaminated by the virus satisfies the “physical damage to property” requirement. On the other hand, insurers may argue that the real cause of the shutdown is not the contaminated building surfaces, but the need for social distancing in a neighborhood with many contagious people. Coverage will depend on the policy language and the details of the shutdown.

Reprinted courtesy of J. Kelby Van Patten, Payne & Fears and Jared De Jong, Payne & Fears
Mr. Van may be contacted at kvp@paynefears.com
Mr. Jong may be contacted at jdj@paynefears.com


Scope of Alaska’s Dump Lien Statute Substantially Reduced For Natural Gas Contractors

Environment green puzzle

Attorney Trevor Lane discusses All American Oilfield, LLC v. Cook Inlet Energy, LLC.

March 16, 2020
Trevor Lane - Ahlers Cressman & Sleight PLLC

In All American Oilfield, LLC v. Cook Inlet Energy, LLC,[1] the Supreme Court of Alaska clarified and substantially reduced a natural gas contractor’s ability to secure a preferred lien for its contribution to a natural gas well.

Alaska’s dump lien statute (AS § 34.35.140) authorizes a laborer to claim a lien for the amount owed for their labor in the production of a “dump or mass” of “extracted, hoisted and raised” matter from a mine. While Alaska’s dump lien statute is one of three Alaskan statutes allowing laborers to attach liens to mines, mining equipment or minerals,[2] the dump lien statute is unique because it is prior and preferred over other liens, increasing the laborer’s chance of being paid in a bankruptcy proceeding.

Attaching a lien to a “dump or mass” of hard-rock minerals piled outside a mine or oil stored in a tank is relatively straightforward. However, natural gas is typically left in its natural reservoir until removed by a pipeline that carries the gas to a location far from the mine. Natural gas is not extracted and stored in a “dump or mass” like other minerals, and until August 2019, controversy existed over how—or if—the dump lien statute could be used by natural gas contractors.

Mr. Lane may be contacted at trevor.lane@acslawyers.com


How AB5 has Changed the Employment Landscape

Green field with sunset

California's Assembly Bill 5 became effective January 1, 2020.

March 16, 2020
Jason Morris – Newmeyer Dillion

As a result of California's Assembly Bill 5, effective January 1, 2020, the California Supreme Court's ABC test is now the standard for evaluating independent contractor classifications for purposes of the Industrial Welfare Commission Wage Orders, California Labor Code, and the California Unemployment Insurance Code. That dramatically ups the ante for companies that rely on independent contractors, particularly those that have not re-evaluated such classifications under the ABC test.

Misclassification cases can be devastating, especially for misclassified non-exempt employees, and can result in minimum wage violations, missed meal and rest periods, unpaid overtime, unreimbursed business expenses, record-keeping violations, steep penalties, attorneys' fees, and even criminal liability, among other consequences. Misclassifying workers creates enormous risks for companies and is fertile ground for class actions and representative actions under the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA).

The Costs Of Misclassification Are Expensive, And Hope Is Not A Strategy

Many business owners I speak to understand AB5 has caused the ground to shift beneath their feet and recognize the resulting risks of misclassifying workers. Despite these risks, companies often balk at taking the necessary steps to evaluate their classifications and mitigate the risk of an adverse classification finding.

The most common reason I hear from resistant companies is the worker does not want to be reclassified as an employee and the company trusts the worker ("I've worked with her for years; she won't sue me because she wants to be a contractor"). I get it. Making the change from contractor to employee results in less flexibility and greater administrative burden for everyone involved. While I'm sympathetic, the government is not. Reluctance to change while acknowledging the associated risks amounts to a strategy based on hope. As we say in the Marine Corps, however, "hope is not a strategy."

Aside from the sometimes foolhardy belief that a misclassified worker can be trusted to not file suit after a business breakup (when the deposits stop and mortgage bill comes due, guess who's a prime target), companies often fail to recognize the numerous ways in which their classification decisions can be challenged even when they are in agreement with their (misclassified) contractors. Here are just three examples of how your classifications can be scrutinized despite the lack of a challenge by the worker:

  • Auto Accidents: Whether delivering products, making sales calls, or traveling between job sites, independent contractors often perform work that requires driving. Of course, sometimes drivers are involved in automobile accidents. When accidents happen, insurance companies step in and look for sources of money to fund claims, attorneys' fees, costs, and settlements. One potential source is your insurance. "But the driver isn't my employee!," you say. You better buckle up because the other motorist's insurance carrier is about to challenge your classification in an attempt to access your insurance policies.
  • EDD Audits: During the course of the last several years, the California Employment Development Department (EDD) has increased the number of verification (random) audits it performs in search of additional tax revenue. One reason government agencies prefer hiring entities classifying workers as employees rather than independent contractors is it's a more efficient tax collection method; employers collect employees' taxes on the government's behalf, which increases collection rates and reduces government collection costs. The consequences of misclassification include pricey fines, penalties, and interest.
  • Unemployment Insurance, Workers' Compensation, and Disability Claims: In addition to verification audits, the EDD performs request (targeted) audits. Targeted audits may result when a contractor files an unemployment insurance, workers' compensation, or disability claim because independent contractors are ineligible for such benefits. Request audits, like verification audits, can result in costly fines, penalties, and interest if the EDD concludes you have misclassified your workers. Even so, that may not be the worst of it: the EDD often shares its findings with the Internal Revenue Service.

Your Action Plan

AB5 has changed the measuring stick, misclassification costs are high, and you do not have complete control of when the government or others can challenge your classifications. So what can you do? Here are several steps all prudent companies should take if they are using independent contractors:

  • Conduct an audit of current classification practices;
  • Review written independent contractor agreements;
  • Implement written independent contractor agreements;
  • Update workplace policies;
  • Update organizational charts;
  • Reclassify independent contractors as employees if necessary.

Jason Morris is a partner in the Newport Beach office of Newmeyer Dillion. Jason's practice concentrates on the areas of labor and employment and business litigation. He advises employers and business owners in employment litigation, as well as advice and counsel related to employment policies and investigations. You can reach him at jason.morris@ndlf.com.

About Newmeyer Dillion
For 35 years, Newmeyer Dillion has delivered creative and outstanding legal solutions and trial results that achieve client objectives in diverse industries. With over 70 attorneys working as a cohesive team to represent clients in all aspects of business, employment, real estate, environmental/land use, privacy & data security and insurance law, Newmeyer Dillion delivers holistic and integrated legal services tailored to propel each client's success and bottom line. Headquartered in Newport Beach, California, with offices in Walnut Creek, California and Las Vegas, Nevada, Newmeyer Dillion attorneys are recognized by The Best Lawyers in America©, and Super Lawyers as top tier and some of the best lawyers in California and Nevada, and have been given Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review's AV Preeminent® highest rating. For additional information, call 949.854.7000 or visit www.newmeyerdillion.com.


Mississippi Floods Prompt New Look at Controversial Dam Project

Flooded plains

At issue is the $345-million One Lake plan to build a dam on the Pearl River in Jackson.

March 16, 2020
Autumn Cafiero Giusti - Engineering News-Record

Flooding from the Pearl River in Mississippi has created a renewed sense of urgency for regional flood prevention efforts, with officials set to decide in six months whether to approve a controversial flood control plan, says an attorney for the region’s flood control district.

Autumn Cafiero Giusti, Engineering News-Record

ENR may be contacted at ENR.com@bnpmedia.com

Read the full story...


New York Appellate Court Holds Insurers May Suffer Consequences of Delayed Payment of Energy Company Property and Business Interruption Claims

Hand on alarm clock

BioEnergy Development Group LLC may pursue tens of millions of dollars in damages from its insurers under two all-risk insurance policies.

March 16, 2020
Syed S. Ahmad & Geoffrey B. Fehling - Hunton Andrews Kurth

A New York appellate court recently held that renewable bio-diesel fuel manufacturer BioEnergy Development Group LLC may pursue tens of millions of dollars in damages from its insurers under two all-risk insurance policies, including amounts in excess of the policy limits, where the insurers refused to pay claims in a timely manner.

BioEnergy purchased two all-risk property policies from Lloyd’s to provide coverage for its manufacturing plant in Memphis, Tennessee. A fire destroyed the Memphis plant in March 2016, eliminating BioEnergy’s production capacity and sole source of revenue. BioEnergy made claims under the policies and sought to rebuild its plant. The insurers acknowledged coverage and eventually made approximately $8 million in interim payments, but the parties disagreed over the value of the total property damage claim, which BioEnergy contended was in excess of $24 million. The disputed claim was submitted to appraisal, which resulted in the insurers agreeing to pay the full business interruption limit of $15.1 million.

The insurers filed a declaratory judgment lawsuit, however, seeking to limit BioEnergy’s recovery to the policy limits of $15.1 million. BioEnergy alleged that the insurers failed to make interim payments in a timely manner after the fire and, as a result, the company suffered increased losses because it could not rebuild without the insurance proceeds. BioEnergy sought actual and consequential damages, plus attorneys’ fees, arising from the delayed payments, including payment of its business interruption losses in excess of the policy limits.

Reprinted courtesy of Syed S. Ahmad, Hunton Andrews Kurth and Geoffrey B. Fehling, Hunton Andrews Kurth
Mr. Ahmad may be contacted at sahmad@HuntonAK.com
Mr. Fehling may be contacted at gfehling@HuntonAK.com



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