Legal Implications of the COVID-19 Outbreak

All of us have been forced to make drastic changes in our day to day living in an effort to cope with this pandemic. These are unprecedented times for our communities, our businesses and our nation. Of course, our first priority should be to address the immediate health and safety concerns of Covid-19. We must all take seriously the recommendations of the health care professionals in terms of limiting our social interactions and staying at home as much as possible.

As with the rest of our institutions, Covid-19 is having a drastic impact on our legal system in North Carolina. These impacts are something that none of us have ever seen before. The situation is changing almost daily, however we at The Doyle Law Offices, P.A. are working hard to stay on top of these changing circumstances so that our clients in Raleigh, Cary, and Wake Forest have the benefit of correct and up-to-date information.

COVID-19 Impacts On Civil Litigation in North Carolina

On April 13, 2020, North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley issued an emergency Order that stated:

“I order that all pleadings, motions, notices and other documents and papers that were or are due to be filed in any county of this state on or after 16 March 2020 and before the close of business on 1 June 2020 in civil actions, criminal actions, estates and special proceedings shall be deemed to be timely filed if they are filed before the close of business of 1 June 2020.

I further order that all other acts that were or are due to be done in any county of this state on or after 16 March 2020 and before the close of business on 1 June 2020 in civil actions, criminal actions, estates, and special proceedings shall be deemed to be timely done if they are done before the close of business on 1 June 2020.”

On March 27, 2020, Governor Cooper issued a “stay at home order” directing people to stay at home, unless they work in essential services. Gatherings have been limited to 10 people or less, and must maintain social distancing. Obviously, these directives have had a major impact on the day to day operation of our legal system in North Carolina. On April 2, 2020, Judge Beasley extended this postponement date until June 1, 2020. Governor Cooper has directed that legal services are essential and law firms are continuing to operate. It is important to note that restraining orders can still be issued during Covid-19.

How Does COVID-19 Affect a Person With Business Before the NC Court?

North Carolina attorneys have been puzzling this out for the last few weeks. It does not mean that the courts are closed. Documents and pleadings can still be filed, even though some Clerks of Court have curtailed their office hours and limited public access. Judge Beasley’s Order does not extend or toll statutes of limitation. If you have a lawsuit that needs to be filed before June 1 to comply with a statute of limitations, you must file it by the appropriate deadline. Certain emergency matters are continuing to take place. For the typical civil lawsuit, most procedural aspects are being postponed in accordance with the Chief Justice’s Order and to promote public safety.

At The Doyle Law Offices, P.A. we are continuing to work diligently for our clients. Yes, things are being postponed and the process of litigation has been slowed, but our clients and their cases remain our top priority. Regardless of this postponement, we recommend that all litigants continue to timely file their paperwork and comply with any court requirements. Certainly, extensions and continuances are going to occur and be more liberally granted in the coming months, but nothing should be taken for granted.

COVID-19 Impacts on Contracts in North Carolina

Of the many long-term effects we can expect from this virus, one that is an absolute certainty will be an onslaught of new lawsuits for breach of contract or other failure to meet business obligations. There are going to be innumerable business arrangements that fall apart as a result of the shut down of the economy and governmental stay at home orders. Inevitably, these matters are going to find their way into the Courts for resolution and redress.

For businesses that cannot meet a contractual obligation due to this virus, speaking with an experienced attorney is vital. Having that conversation early is crucial. Many contracts have specific language and terms dealing with failure of performance and potential justifications for failure of performance. A defense like force majeure could apply in this current pandemic situation. Is COVID-19 a circumstance that was uncontrollable, unforeseeable and materially detrimental to a party being able to meet a contractual obligation? Another defense is impossibility of performance, wherein a party cannot meet their obligation. Has COVID-19 had that effect on certain people or businesses?

Every contract and business situation are unique. If you are concerned about how coronavirus is, or could, impact your ability to perform under a contract or if you are facing a breach of contract from the other party, call The Doyle Law Offices, P.A. today and speak with Hank Doyle. He has been representing individuals and businesses in Raleigh, Cary and the surrounding Wake County area since 1995 and can help you analyze your situation and protect your interests during these difficult times.

COVID-19 Impacts on Estate Planning in North Carolina

Estate planning is a serious process and requires careful thought and evaluation of personal needs, desires, family and financial circumstances. It is only natural that a public health crisis will cause people to consider this topic with a much stronger sense of urgency. The first thing to remember is that the services of a seasoned estate planning attorney have never been more important. The last thing a person should do is panic and get into a rush. Resorting to a boilerplate will form from the internet or some mass marketed “self- help” estate plan from some website just for the sake of expediency can have disastrous consequences.

Our law firm is still accepting new clients for estate planning, will and trust preparation, powers of attorney, etc. While we are implementing different procedures and protocols due to this virus, we are continuing to provide our estate planning clients with the information, counsel, and highest quality legal services as we have since 1995. During this crisis, we are meeting with clients remotely or by phone as opposed to the tradition in office consultation. We are able to draft and prepare your estate planning paperwork and ensure that they are executed correctly and that the process of execution is carried out safely.

Please note, despite some short-term work arounds that have been implemented in certain settings, the legal requirements for legally executing a will, trust and other estate documents has not changed. You still have to sign your will in the presence of two witness and a notary public. This cannot by done by skype or “Facetime” or anything like that. We have procedures in place that protect the legality of the process and the safety of everyone involved.

Experiencing a Legal Issue During COVID-19? Speak to an Attorney Today!

If you have any questions about Covid-19 impacts on your case, or you haven't got a will in place, call our law firm today! We are striving to provide our clients with the highest level of expertise and quality legal services they deserve even during this trying and unpredictable time. Contact us today at  (984) 235-1067 or fill out the contact form below.

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