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Ebola's Legal Repercussions

Washington DC Legal DC
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When it comes to Ebola, businesses are turning to law firms for advice. Reed Smith created a global Ebola task force with more than 20 lawyers in practice areas including aviation, life sciences, data privacy, insurance recovery, and labor & employment. In the DC office of the 1,800-lawyer firm, we talked to two members of the new group: healthcare and FDA partner Celeste Letourneau and government contracts & grants practice head Lorraine Mullings Campos.

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Celeste was a registered nurse before entering law and worked with infectious diseases, including AIDS as it emerged in the US. Some Ebola-related questions are coming to the firm from hospitals, such as the protocols for infectious diseases, obligations to employees, regulatory obligations, and OSHA issues. Others questions are on the commercial side, from pharma companies interested in doing research on or launching joint ventures addressing infectious diseases.

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It turns out that Ebola's spread creates legal issues far beyond hospitals and healthcare. One example is how travel restrictions affect government contracts. Then there are other transportation issues: shipping of biohazardous specimens and implications for commercial aircraft operators. (The head of the task force, Patrick Bradley, is in the products liability practice, with a focus on aviation.) Companies in hotel management, dealing with visitors from around the world, have to know legal obligations to employees. All kinds of businesses face questions about insurance, or privacy issues surrounding asking employees for information about their health and recent travel.

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While in Reed Smith's 1301 K Street space, we took the elevator upstairs to see the soon-to-be-rebuilt 12th floor, as the firm consolidates its space on the building's top three floors. We hear the penthouse is undergoing a full remodel as well.