COVID-19 Update: Click Here

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On Friday, April 3, 2020, the Helping Emergency Responders Overcome Emergency Situations (HEROES) Act of 2020 was formally introduced for consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Bill Huizenga of Michigan.  The bill, formally known as H.R.6433, is currently pending and has been referred to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee for consideration.

The HEROES Act, if passed into law, would apply to counties where there is at least one positive COVID-19 patient and would provide four-months of federal income tax relief to those fighting on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Frontline workers under the bill would include medical/healthcare professionals such as nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, hospital and licensed medical facility support staff, pharmacists, and senior care facility staff, as well as first responders such as paramedics, EMT’s, firefighters, corrections officers, and law enforcement officers.

The legislation also would afford the Secretary of the Treasury discretion to extend the federal tax relief for up to three additional months, if deemed appropriate.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Provides Broad Relief for Federal Student Loan Borrowers

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Professionals with federal student loan debt may be entitled to some relief under the newly enacted CARES Act.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid has automatically placed federal student loan borrowers in “Administrative Forbearance,” which enables borrowers to temporarily stop making monthly student loan payments from March 13, 2020 up through September 30, 2020.

Philanthropic and governments across Massachusetts are setting up funds to support organizations and communities that have been impacted by the coronavirus. See below for a list of funds.

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State Senator Michael O. Moore of Worcester and State Representative James Arciero have presented an emergency bill known as S2602 (an identical emergency bill is pending in the House as well, known as H4927).  Interested members of the public are invited to give testimony (via written submissions due to Covid-19 social distancing guidelines) today, April 6 2020.

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The bill provides that all police, fire personnel, correction officers, dispatchers, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, nursing professionals, and all individuals employed and considered as 1st responders, who contract, have symptoms of, or otherwise becomes affected by the Coronavirus (COVID-19), that results in a period of hospitalization, quarantine, or require self-quarantined measures as a result of being infected or coming into contact with someone who is infected with this virus, shall have their medical condition or incapacity to work presumed to be work-related.  This means the amount of time the public safety official is incapacitated or unable to perform their  duties as a result of COVID-19 shall be considered on duty time, and that the public safety official shall not be required to use sick time, vacation time, personal time or any other contractual time-off to cover said period of incapacitation or inability to perform regular duty work.  The time of incapacitation or inability to perform their duties shall be considered as “emergency hazard health duty.”

In short, this bill means that first responders and public safety officials will not have to use sick time or vacation time if they have to take time away from work due to COVID-19 and will continue to receive their pay.  To voice your support, call your State Representative and State Senator today!  You can learn more about the law here:

Attention all small business owners, sole proprietors, and independent contractors!  The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was recently signed into law.  Hundreds of billions of dollars have been set aside to help your business survive these uncertain times.  The text of the law itself is hundreds of pages of long.  To try and help, we have prepared a basic guide to the most important provisions of the law as far as your business is concerned:  the Paycheck Protection Program; Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Emergency Economic Injury Grants; Small Business Debt Relief Program; Small Business Tax Provisions; and Small Business Counseling.  For more detailed information about any of these topics, or the CARES Act generally, be sure to visit the Small Business Administration’s website at https://www.sba.gov.   For starters, here are some of the most important provisions of the stimulus package:

Small Business Debt Relief Program

If your small business or sole proprietorship already has a non-disaster loan through the Small Business Administration, or takes out such a loan in the next six months, the SBA is offering immediate payment relief.

Your Guide to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was recently signed into law.  Hundreds of billions of dollars have been set aside to help your business survive these uncertain times.  The text of the law itself is hundreds of pages of long.  To try and help, we have prepared a basic guide to the most important provisions of the law as far as your business is concerned:  the Paycheck Protection Program; Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Emergency Economic Injury Grants; Small Business Debt Relief Program; Small Business Tax Provisions; and Small Business Counseling.  For more detailed information about any of these topics, or the CARES Act generally, be sure to visit the Small Business Administration’s website at https://www.sba.gov.

Paycheck Protection Program

Massachusetts business owners and sole proprietors: know your rights under your commercial insurance policies! The Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) promises widespread business interruption across a huge variety of sectors, from restaurants and bars to manufacturing and contracting, and everything in between. In Massachusetts in particular, Governor Baker has just announced a statewide ban on gatherings of 25 people or more and ordered than restaurants cease serving food and drinks on site. Even more restrictive measures may follow. You may be wondering what, if any, coverage you might claim for business losses or interruptions under your commercial insurance policy. Or you may have already received a notice from your insurance company claiming they owe no coverage at all. Now is the time to carefully review the wording of your policy, bearing a few things in mind.

First and foremost, your insurance company is not at liberty to retroactively and unilaterally restrict or limit coverage under your policy. Insurance contracts are contracts like any other – a bargained-for exchange between two parties formed the moment they are executed. One party to that contract cannot change its terms without the consent of the other. To the extent your insurance company may claim it owes no coverage under a specific “exclusion,” the burden will be on your insurance company to prove that the exclusion applies, and “exclusions” are construed strictly in favor of coverage. To the extent there is any ambiguity in your insurance policy about whether coverage exists for an event like COVID-19, it is a well-recognized rule that any ambiguity will be construed against your insurance company and that you, the insured, will be entitled to the more favorable interpretation. This rule of interpretation applies with particular force to exclusionary provisions. “If the meaning of the contract language is unclear, we ‘consider what an objectively reasonable insured, reading the relevant policy language, would expect to be covered.’”  Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Cotter, 464 Mass. 623, 635 (2013), citations omitted.

You may also be in a position where based on representations made to you by your insurance company, you were under the impression there would be coverage for this type of loss, only to find out now your insurance company is refusing to cooperate. You may still be able to obtain coverage under a legal doctrine known as estoppel. Even more generally, in Massachusetts your insurance company has a statutory duty to act in good faith towards you, its insured. Two statutes in particular require insurance companies to act in good faith. G.L. c. 176D catalogues fourteen separate unfair claim settlement practices. And G.L. c. 93A prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce,” including insurance. Under these statutes, should your insurance company force you to litigate a question of coverage where you are ultimately successful in court, you may stand to gain double or triple damages, plus attorneys’ fees, interest, and costs.

On November 16, 2017, in Suffolk County Superior Court, a jury of twelve returned a verdict of not guilty in favor of Attorney Benjamin Duggan’s client.  Attorney Duggan’s client was charged with, among other things, illegally possessing a firearm and ammunition.  Due to certain sentencing enhancements, Attorney Duggan’s client was facing a minimum mandatory state prison sentence of 15 years.  Attorney Duggan’s client had been held pending trial for over a year.  Following the jury’s verdict, he walked out the front door of the courthouse a free man.

Issues in the case included a motion to suppress certain items seized pursuant to a search warrant, the legal elements of actual and constructive possession, and various forensic testing including DNA and fingerprints.  The jury’s verdict followed extensive testimony and evidence.

If you have been charged with a crime, contact the attorneys at the KJC Law Firm.  Let our experience secure you the best possible results.

 

Can a Massachusetts prosecutor use a defendant’s refusal to take a breathalyzer test as evidence of drunk driving? The short answer is no, but understanding why this is the answer is a bit more complicated.

Everyone is familiar with the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution’s provision that no person “shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” We’ve all heard someone – maybe on a TV show or maybe even in person – ‘plead the fifth’ by refusing to answer questions in some formal, legal setting.

What fewer people may know is that the Massachusetts Constitution’s protections against self-incrimination are even broader those contained in the Fifth Amendment. Under the Massachusetts Constitution, in addition to being entitled to refuse to be “a witness against himself,” a defendant also has the right not to “be compelled to . . . furnish evidence against himself.” While the difference in language is slight, its implications in drunk driving cases is very significant

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