In an opinion yesterday, Judge Seibel largely rejected a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by University of Tampa students claiming that the University breached its obligations to them by failing to hold in-person classes.

A newly-enacted Florida statute provides educational institutions with immunity for these types of claims, but Judge Seibel found that applying the statute retroactively would violate due process:
Continue Reading Judge Seibel: Students Can Pursue Contract Claims for University’s Failure to Hold In-Person Classes During the Pandemic

Last week, Judge Daniels dismissed a putative class action against NYU over its decision to conduct classes remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.  He concluded the plaintiff could not identify any actual promise or agreement by which NYU stated its classes would be held in person:
Continue Reading Judge Daniels: NYU’s Remote Learning During the Pandemic Is Not a Contract Breach Because NYU Never Clearly Promised In-Person Classes

Based on various orders recently appearing on the dockets, it appears that in-person civil jury trials will begin in May, under a centralized calendaring system. One typical order explains as follows:

The Southern District of New York has reconfigured courtrooms and other spaces in its courthouses to allow civil jury trials to proceed as safely

In a decision last week, Judge Cote ruled that the COVID-19 pandemic qualified as a “natural disaster” that fell within the scope of a contractual force majeure clause. The defendant auction house had agreed to auction a painting owned by the plaintiff and pay it a guaranteed minimum price, but invoked its right to terminate the agreement after the auction was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic and related government restrictions.

The force majeure clause applied in the event of “circumstances beyond our or your reasonable control, including, without limitation, as a result of natural disaster, fire, flood, general strike, war, armed conflict, terrorist attack or nuclear or chemical contamination.” Judge Cote held that the pandemic was “a circumstance beyond the parties’ reasonable control” and a “natural disaster”:


Continue Reading Judge Cote: COVID-19 Pandemic is a “Natural Disaster” for Purposes of Contractual Force Majeure Clause

Last week, a group of plaintiffs filed a complaint against federal agencies (including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) challenging the federal government’s handling of information reporting related to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The plaintiffs include a public charter school, a non-profit health and housing group, a New York City councilmember, and a medical student.  According to the complaint, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2019 mandated the creation of a “biosurveillance network” to provide information on the progress of public health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic, but the agencies tasked with creating and maintaining the network have failed to carry out their biosurveillance duties, failing to adequately report information, and failing to involve the public in policymaking decisions (as required by the law):
Continue Reading NYC Plaintiffs Challenge Federal COVID-19 Information Reporting in New Suit

Earlier today, Judge Oetken issued a decision invalidating several provisions of a Department of Labor rule implementing the paid sick leave and emergency family leave provisions of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The Labor Department had excluded employees who were unable to work because their employers had no work available for them as a result of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. It also adopted a broad definition of “health care provider,” which would have allowed “an English professor, librarian, or cafeteria manager at a university with a medical school” to be denied paid leave.

Continue Reading Judge Oetken Strikes Down Labor Department Restrictions on COVID-19 Paid Leave

In an opinion today, Chief Judge McMahon upheld a New York executive order that allowed tenants to apply their security deposits towards rent and that temporarily suspended evictions.

She ruled that the executive order did not violate the U.S. Constitution’s Takings Clause because landlords necessarily have entered into a heavily regulated area of the economy, and because the executive order was consistent with the type of ordinary ebb and flow of that regulation — as opposed to an impermissible destruction of landlords’ property investment:
Continue Reading Chief Judge McMahon Upholds New York’s COVID-19 Eviction Suspension

Last week, Chief Judge McMahon scheduled what appears to be the first remote trial to be held in the Southern District during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The trial will commence on July 6, 2020 in Ferring Pharmaceuticals v. Serenity Pharmaceuticals, a patent dispute involving drugs used to treat the condition nocturia (a form of waking during the night).

Judge McMahon considered several issues that counseled in favor of a remote trial:
Continue Reading Judge McMahon: Holding Bench Trial in July via Remote Platform is a “No-Brainer”