A lot has happened in the last few months, which is not limited to healthcare and economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies fighting against the pandemic on the front line are at risk of scrutiny and litigation, specifically while making statements in media interviews, press releases, and public disclosures.
The same is the case for businesses that have been impacted heavily by the pandemic, either negatively – travel or event companies or positively – digital communication companies. Companies need to ensure they disclose COVID-19 related news and forecasts only after careful and wise considerations.
A Recent Securities Litigation Case Related to COVID-19
Inovio Pharmaceuticals Accused of Overly Optimistic Statements
In the middle of March 2020, the CEO of Inovio Pharmaceuticals said in an interview that they could completely make their vaccine within three hours and had planned to start trials in April the same year. With this statement, Inovio’s stock prices were inflated, after which an analyst called for an SEC investigation – calling the CEO’s claim ludicrous and dangerous. Soon, Inovio Pharmaceuticals became one of the very first companies sued for alleged COVID-related securities violations. Consequently, Inovio’s stock dropped from $18.72 to $5.70 within two days.
Since March 2020, there have been several other securities class action cases against companies that are directly involved with COVID-19 or with a business model that is significantly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. Let’s now discuss lawyers’ perspectives toward litigation case proceedings and the legal landscape amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Closed Doors of the Courts
The most significant change in any litigation lawyer’s professional life caused by COVID-19 was the courts’ unprecedented closure. The courts adjourned almost all litigation cases scheduled for any criminal appearance. All civil matters that were scheduled to be heard in March throughout to June were adjourned, and there was no new date for the cases to return to court.
These were the big changes that affected litigants who were unable to resolve their dispute by negotiation and were waiting for a trial to proceed their case further toward a solution. The cases that proceeded to trial were a small fraction of all civil cases.
However, several cases were still awaiting trial, and many parties have no other choice than waiting for the courts to resume their regular operations. Consequently, it was difficult for lawyers to hold on to clients that were unable to secure a trial and facing delays in their litigation cases.
Meetings While Maintaining Social Distancing
Lawyers met their clients face-to-face the last time in March. After that, strict restrictions about physical meetings and the public across the country were suggested to maintain social distancing, not come out of their homes since the lockdown was imposed. Even the new clients that lawyers were getting through referrals or advertisements were communicating using emails, phone calls, or video calls.
In personal injury litigation cases, injured clients must attend assessments frequently with a medical professional. During the time between mid-March and June, in-person assessments were postponed because the medical assessment of someone for the purpose of a lawsuit is not counted as an essential service. Due to this, there has been a considerable delay in the documentation, preparation of files, and the entire case, leading to difficulties finding solutions until the social distancing restrictions were lifted.
Changes in Operations & Culture of Law Offices and Courts
As soon as the restrictions imposed on in-person consultations, many lawyers and law firms decided to work remotely (like any other business entity). Yes, most of them took all the necessary steps to continue their functions and develop a virtual law office concept.
Lawyers and their paralegals started digitizing papers, for example, letters, documents, law briefs, photos, etc. With this, they were able to access essential pieces of documents any time they wanted using a secure network connection.
Similarly, the exchange of papers in the digital format made it easier for clients as well to scan and send documents from their home. They tackled communication barriers by shifting mails to voicemail messages; the law office staff redirected voicemails sent by clients to specific lawyers they were supposed to reach. And the increasing utilization of virtual meeting platforms such as Zoom, Webex Meetings, GoToMeeting, etc. supported lawyers to have a tremendous communication experience between them and clients/colleagues. For example, it became easier for a lawyer in a law firm’s New York branch to meet their colleague sitting in the Chicago branch virtually.
Besides, courts across the country adapted very quickly. They allowed secure portals using which the court staff became able to issue a statement of claim or file a statement of defense virtually. This eliminates the need for an individual to physically appear at the court counter for all proceedings.
When the first nationwide lockdown was imposed, several legal proceedings, mediations, and examinations for discovery were postponed/rescheduled. However, the entire legal profession had adapted very quickly in order to find suitable solutions to all the barriers discussed above.
Soon, the legal system allowed conducting virtual discovery (almost by the end of April) in which the defense lawyer, the client, and the court reporter were participating remotely while sitting at their own home. This helped a lot to boost court proceedings and gave some relaxation to clients who were eagerly waiting for their cases to be resolved. Mediators also quickly adapted with plans similar to lawyers and hosted mediated settlement meetings digitally, having all the parties virtually present.
The solutions that lawyers and courts found to tackle the pandemic’s challenges were outstanding, and soon, the delayed/rescheduled/postponed litigation cases have proceeded further. However, amid all this, lawyers’ workload has increased immensely, now they have more clients wanting to meet them virtually, leaving them with less time for performing their core duties. In this situation, Legal Support World, a litigation services company, can help lawyers manage their office work efficiently and quickly. We have been providing quality legal support services across the US since 2008 and earned several clients that are happy and satisfied with our litigation service. Visit our website to learn more about us or call us today to get a free trial. Call us at +1 646 688 2821 Or email at firstname.lastname@example.org