Your COVID19 legal questions answered by the team at Scarfone Hawkins Law

Patrick McIlhone – Associate, Practising in Corporate Commercial Law at Scarfone Hawkins LLP

Q:  Can someone use COVID-19 as a an excuse to delay performance of a contractual obligation, or even cancel a contract entirely?

A:  From a multimillion dollar business deal to an agreement with a contractor to build you a new back deck, contracts of all shapes and sizes have been impacted. If one party’s ability to follow through with a contract is impacted by COVID-19 and the related government restrictions, then it is often a matter of technical legal interpretation to determine if either party has the ability to delay or cancel the contract. Terms like “Act of God”, “Force Majeure”, and “Frustration” are commonly used, but can have very different meanings and applications in different contracts. A competent commercial lawyer can help you quickly assess your rights and risks in these situations.

Melissa Roque – Associate, Practising in Corporate Commercial and Real Estate Law at Scarfone Hawkins LLP

Q:  Should I buy a home during the pandemic?

A:  During the first month of the pandemic, there are multiple reports of lay-offs preventing opportunities to obtain financing or severe buyer’s remorse without an option to walk away from the deal. In order to avoid these situations, you should consider including provisions in the purchase agreement which contemplate solutions for the complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic including loss of employment, comprehensive financing and inspection conditions and extension provisions in the event there is a closure of banks and/or the land registry office ceases operations temporarily. 

Ultimately, unless your purchase agreement becomes frustrated or provides for the unique circumstances of the current pandemic, you are likely stuck with the deal bargained for.

Victoria McDougall – Associate, Practising in Commercial, Estates and Family Law Litigation at Scarfone Hawkins LLP

Q: Can I advance my family law matter during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

A: The regular operation of the Family Law Court was suspended on March 15, 2020. In general, the courts have continued to hear urgent matters including the safety and well-being of children or dire financial matters. While access to the courts has been limited, lawyers continue to work and advocate for their clients in order to resolve matters as expeditiously as possible. This work may include alternative dispute resolution options such as mediation and arbitration.

Paul Ingrassia – Associate, Practising in Commercial Litigation at Scarfone Hawkins LLP

Q:  My employer has called me back to work after being laid off as a result of the Pandemic, can I refuse to return to work if I am concerned about exposure to COVID-19 in my workplace?

A:  It depends.  An employer has an obligation to take all reasonable precautions in the circumstances to keep its employees safe.  Employees have rights under workplace occupational health and safety legislation to refuse work if their employer has not taken all reasonable precautions to ensure a safe workplace.  

Depending upon a number of factors including your workplace conditions, nature of the work, your workplace environment (internal versus external), number of employees, and your role, employers should be following provincial and federal directives and understand the serious threat of COVID-19 on its employees.  At minimum, employers should be giving serious consideration to providing or mandating use of PPE (personal protective equipment), hand washing and sanitizing stations, implementing social and physical distancing guidelines and/or staggered workplace scheduling to facilitate return of its work force.

Jacob Sazio – Associate, Practising in Personal Injury and Medical Malpractice Litigation at Scarfone Hawkins LLP

Q: How has the practice of personal injury law been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: While civil trials have been suspended until further notice, the litigation of personal injury claims has not. Throughout the pandemic, we have continued to advance our clients’ claims and taken on new clients. Lawyers and judges alike have embraced technology to keep cases moving forward. From filing a Statement of Claim online to conducting a mediation by videoconference, we are able to proceed with litigation in a safe and efficient way. We are committed to using every tool at our disposal to help our clients achieve a positive result even through these difficult and unprecedented times.

The reality is that accidents continue to happen – pandemic or not. People with serious personal injuries are best-served by expert legal counsel to help them navigate the complex world of personal injury litigation.

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