Houston-area lawyer gives small-business owners advice on coronavirus-related lawsuits

Houston-based lawyer Phil Griffis said small-business owners need to prepare themselves for potential coronavirus-related litigation. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Houston-based lawyer Phil Griffis said small-business owners need to prepare themselves for potential coronavirus-related litigation. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Houston-based lawyer Phil Griffis said small-business owners need to prepare themselves for potential coronavirus-related litigation. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)

Small-business owners need to brace themselves for the aftereffects of the coronavirus pandemic when it comes to litigation, according to the president of a law office in Nassau Bay.

Phil Griffis, president of the Law Office of Phil Griffis, was one of several panelists at a May 14 webinar hosted by Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership. He spoke of the various reasons for which employees and customers alike could file coronavirus-related lawsuits against a business: A worker could sue for something related to debts, contractual obligations or workers' compensation, and a customer could file a class-action lawsuit claiming to have contracted the coronavirus at a business’s physical location.

Griffis said any business owner who may think they are too small to be targeted by lawsuits must change their attitude, as no business is immune.

“With all due respect, you’re wrong,” Griffis said, adding it is possible to prove in court whether someone caught the virus from a specific business. “Businesses will be the targets of lawsuits and, frankly, many of them could be legitimate.”

Griffis advised owners to be proactive and use the pandemic as an opportunity to cement business relationships. Some businesspeople have taken to signing business standstill agreements, in which one party agrees to not sue over a debt in return for something in exchange from the payee.



The agreements give business owners a way in writing to say “I can’t pay you, but I care about you,” Griffis said during the webinar. This could mean the payee makes reduced payments, or it could mean other forms of assistance such as hosting seminars, providing referrals or giving good reviews.

“You can get as creative with these things as your imagination allows,” Griffis said of the agreements.

Business owners need to take coronavirus-related lawsuits seriously, as no lawsuit immunity measures have been announced at the state or federal level, Griffis said. However, he added the courts will likely be overwhelmed with business lawsuits for the next several years, making it “very, very difficult” to get a case to trial.

“Keep yourself out of the courtroom and focus on ... preserving your sanity,” Griffis said.

By Colleen Ferguson
A native central New Yorker, Colleen Ferguson worked as an editorial intern with the Cy-Fair and Lake Houston | Humble | Kingwood editions of Community Impact before joining the Bay Area team in 2020. Colleen graduated from Syracuse University in 2019, where she worked for the campus's independent student newspaper The Daily Orange, with a degree in Newspaper and Online Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and a degree in Spanish language and culture. Colleen previously interned with The Journal News/lohud, where she covered the commute in the greater New York City area.

<

MOST RECENT

Mayor Sylvester Turner issued a set of recommended social distancing guidelines June 2 that go beyond what is required by Gov. Greg Abbott. (Courtesy HTV)
Houston mayor recommends limit on gatherings over 10, businesses scale back to 25% capacity

The mayor is recommending businesses scale back to 25% and residents avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.

The First Street Foundation's dataset includes a forecast models that anticipate the effects of climate change and sea level rise. (Screenshot via First Street Foundation)
Analysis: FEMA may be undercounting national total flood risk by as much as 70%

The new dataset includes an interactive Flood Factor dashboard that anyone can use to assess the risk of flooding over a 30-year period for any address.

The city of Houston reported the 14-day moving average for testing positivity was at 24.8% as of June 28, up from 15.4% on June 1. (Community Impact staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: 1,249 cases, three deaths confirmed July 2

The city of Houston reported the 14-day moving average for testing positivity was at 24.8% as of June 28, up from 15.4% on June 1.

Houston fireworks display
Here’s how to celebrate Fourth of July across the Greater Houston area

Several Houston-area cities are still planning fireworks shows with drive-in or virtual components this Fourth of July.

Gov. Greg Abbott
Gov. Greg Abbott: Texans must wear masks in public starting July 3

"COVID-19 is not going away," Gov. Abbott said. "In fact, it is getting worse."

The Kemah Boardwalk will be open Fourth of July weekend. (Courtesy Kemah Boardwalk)
3 Houston-area amusement properties will be open Fourth of July weekend

The Kemah Boardwalk, Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier and Downtown Aquarium Houston are offering a joint weekend adventure pass for $29.99.

Episcopal Health Foundation
Survey: Texans support emphasis on improving economy, safety, pollution to address overall health

“COVID-19 is clearly showing what Texans already know: the state needs to address underlying, non-medical conditions that have a dramatic impact on their health,” Episcopal Health Foundation President and CEO Elena Marks said.

Here are the latest local and statewide coronavirus updates for Bay Area residents to know. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
CORONAVIRUS UPDATES: Galveston County reports 272 new cases, 4 deaths July 1

The county reported additional coronavirus deaths for the first time since June 11 and hit a new record-high daily case count, on July 1, bringing the total number of cases to 3,565.

In communities across the nation, Walmart Supercenter parking lots will be transformed into contact-free, drive-in movie theaters beginning in August. (Courtesy Walmart)
Walmart to bring drive-in movies to 160 stores nationwide in August, launch virtual summer camp

Families can also enjoy a virtual summer camp experience Walmart is launching July 8 with sessions led by celebrities, including Drew Barrymore, Neil Patrick Harris and LeBron James.

The daily total, the third highest in the county's history, came as Texas confirmed a total of 8,076 new cases overall, a new high for the state. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Harris County coronavirus count: 1,437 new cases confirmed July 1 as Texas Medical Center pushes into ICU surge capacity

The daily total, the third highest in the county's history, came as Texas confirmed a total of 8,076 new cases overall, a new high for the state.

Clear Creek ISD administrators are finalizing reopening plans for the district's 42,000 students. (Graphic courtesy Clear Creek ISD)
Clear Creek ISD updates: School day extended, masks mandated on buses for 2020-21 school year

The district plans to welcome students back to campuses Aug. 18, but students can also attend school online through the new Clear Connections platform.

The City of Galveston has decided to close all beaches for the 4th of July weekend. (Hannah Zedaker/Community Impact Newspaper)
Galveston closes beaches for Fourth of July weekend

The beaches will be closed from 5 a.m July 3 until 12:01 a.m. July 6. No cars will be allowed to park on Seawall Boulevard during this time.