How COVID-19 is Impacting Your Claims, as of April 3, 2020
As we transition into April, to say the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact us all would be a gross understatement. Many of us in the New York City, New Jersey and Philadelphia areas know people diagnosed with COVID-19 personally, with varying degrees of severity. We wish the best to all those dealing with symptoms right now, and a heartfelt thanks to essential workers, particularly health care providers, for their tireless efforts these past few weeks. For the rest of us, despite the cloud of anxiety we’re all dealing with, we still try to maintain some degree of personal and professional normalcy, as we all follow CDC social distancing directives. (Who even knew the term “social distancing” as recently as a six weeks ago?)
In New York, since our last post on March 22, 2020, all Statutes of Limitations remain stayed, and parties have been directed to stipulate out any deadlines impacted by COVID-19 — including summary judgment deadlines. Moreover, since March 22, 2020, filings — including E-filings — will not be accepted by County Clerks until further notice. Non-essential matters, which includes the bulk of civil litigation, is on hold, absent emergency circumstances. There have been a few orders issued in the past week in New York regarding implementation of Virtual Courts throughout the state. We have received them all, “hot off the presses,” but so far, these virtual courts only apply to “essential” matters and emergency applications. As to the remainder of active matters, litigators remain in “wait and see” mode. We surmise that E-filing will be the first non-essential court function to recommence, but the Courts have not relayed a timeline to date.
In New Jersey, the Supreme Court issued an Order on March 27, 2020, which memorializes the suspension of in-person Court proceedings, deadline extensions, and tolling of filing periods until at least April 26, 2020. The Order outlines the specific, in terms of the various civil and criminal court deadlines extended, but the message is simple — all non-emergency court functions remain on hold until April 26, 2020, and with regard to computing any deadline or statute of limitation dates, the time period from March 16, 2020 – April 26, 2020 is excluded.
As for Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court issued an Order on April 1, 2020, which extends the “statewide judicial emergency” through April 30, 2020, which includes closure of Courts throughout the Commonwealth through that date, excepting certain “essential functions.” Moreover, all time calculations are suspended through April 30, 2020, which is similar to the NJ Order.
Federal courts are still functioning, in terms of E-filing, although in person conferences across New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are on hold, per CDC directives. As to the different rules applicable to each federal court, those protocols not only from court to court, but from judge to judge, and federal courts offer wide discretion to judges implementing their own court rules. The Southern District of New York, for example, issued an Order on March 30 2020 which includes the following directive:
Counsel are urged to check the web pages of individual judges, who have been instructed to post thereon any orders of general applicability extending time in civil matters, adjourning conferences, and the like. We are unable to docket these orders of general applicability in each individual open case. Checking the judge’s web page may save you the time and trouble of making application for an extension of time or an adjournment.
Overall, Courts across all three states have prioritized “essential” court functions; the continuation of the remainder of litigation is on the back-burner, at least for now. There is no prohibition against attorneys communicating with clients, claim professionals and adversaries — which has been keeping us all busy — but Court oversight of these processes remains on hold. WCM continues to operate in a fully functional manner, with all attorneys working remotely. We will stay on top of updates from the Courts, and along with all of you, will continue to follow CDC recommendations, and wish good health to our clients, partners, colleagues and your families. Please reach out to us with any questions.