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We are a worldwide network of attorneys that focus on hospitality, travel and tourism issues; a marketing conduit for suppliers of legal, safety and security solutions to reach hospitality developers and operators in need of those solutions; we mitigate critical incidents, injuries, litigation and liability within the hospitality industry, in the U.S. and abroad by facilitating the creation, collection, and dissemination of legal, safety and security information, products and services.


Attorney of the Week
Jerry Hamilton

Jerry is a Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer. He has been nationally recognized as one of the Top Ten Defense Lawyers in the United States by one of the largest insurance companies in the world. He is a Fellow of the Litigation Counsel of America, an invitation-only trial honorary society composed of less than one-half percent of lawyers in The United States. Jerry is frequently asked to step in as trial counsel in the days, weeks, and months leading up to trial in complex, high exposure matters across the country. His and his Firm’s specialty is taking the most severe cases to trial at a moment’s notice telling his client’s story in the most effective and compelling manner. Jerry is also Board Certified in Maritime Law, has been recognized as a “Super Lawyer” by Law & Politics every year since 2006, and is named as one of Florida’s “Legal Elite” by Florida Trend. He has been selected as one of America’s Top 100 High Stakes Litigators® for 2018— this is by invitation only and is reserved to identify the nation’s most exceptional trial attorneys in high value, high stakes legal matters.

Law Firm of the Week
Holland & Knight

At Holland & Knight, we put our legal knowledge to work for you in a practical manner. We know that in order to be the best value to you, we must first provide personalized solutions tailored to your needs. With more than 1,400 lawyers in our U.S. and international offices and legal colleagues in over 40 countries around the world, Holland & Knight serves clients globally. Our clients recognize the ability of our firm to consistently provide excellent value in a variety of areas that range from commercial litigation, regulatory matters, mergers and acquisitions, real estate and government advocacy. With 27 offices around the globe, we are committed to providing the highest quality legal counsel combined with the utmost in client service – across state and national borders – in a seamless, cost-effective manner. This level of legal guidance, combined with our interdisciplinary structure and the firm’s global network, is your assurance of high-quality resources when and where you need them. Our lawyers are consistently recognized as leaders in the legal profession, earning accolades for service, responsiveness, results and pro bono commitment.

Company of the Week
Global Guardian

Global Guardian is a provider of world-class security solutions, custom-tailored to the individual needs of its global client base. The company offers an integrated suite of best-in-class security services that help clients identify and mitigate the risks of traveling and doing business both overseas and domestically. Global Guardian’s management and advisory team are comprised of highly experienced former military special operations and federal law enforcement personnel and seasoned business professionals. The group’s diverse background ensures both a high level of subject matter expertise on the global security climate and the changing needs of businesses working and traveling internationally. Our local security teams are carefully vetted to assure integrity, capabilities, and compliance with all applicable international and local laws and regulations. Our due diligence process is the most extensive in the industry and includes strict insurance and employee screening requirements, initial and ongoing operational readiness and capability testing, extensive sustainment training, bilingual speakers, and 24-hour operational capabilities; among other aspects.

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Our CONVERGE BLOG focuses on legal, safety, and security challenges for Hospitality, Travel, Travel Vendors and Corporate Travel Buyers as individuals and businesses.
Our blog features exclusive content from our contributors, who collectively represent the full spectrum of hospitality law, risk management and comprehensive duty of care solutions.

Employers Should Prepare for Wave of COVID-Related Wrongful Death Lawsuits

The latest projections estimate that nearly 300,000 Americans will die from COVID-19 by the end of 2020. Many of those individuals will be employed when they contract the virus, and a significant number will be workers in front line businesses such as retail, manufacturing, or healthcare, where the risk of exposure is significant. Faced with the tragic loss of a loved one during unprecedented economic turmoil, many of these workers’ families will understandably choose to file wrongful death claims seeking to recover for their loss.

There has been talk of national legislation to provide liability protection for employers, but that has failed to materialize and looks increasingly unlikely. Instead, most employers will find their best defense to be their states’ workers’ compensation laws which generally limit employee lawsuits and require employees to follow an administrative process that imposes statutory limits on damages. These same workers’ compensation laws, however, often have an “out” for certain extreme cases where employees can prove they were injured because the employer acted with a high degree of culpability, typically ranging from gross negligence to intentional harm.

Wrongful death lawsuits therefore will have two seemingly high hurdles to clear before an employer could be subjected to the nightmare scenario; a trial by jury where millions of dollars in punitive damages could be at stake. Those hurdles are (1) proving COVID-19 was contracted in the course and scope of employment; and (2) proving the employer acted with the required level of intent to circumvent the exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation. 

Did the Employee Catch the Virus at Work?

This question may seem to be an impossible one to answer. After all, an employee could be exposed to COVID-19 anywhere at any time. It is impossible to know with any certainty how an employee contracted an invisible virus. That said, it is not yet clear how judges and juries will decide these issues. Many states have already instituted presumptions that certain front line workers contracted COVID-19 in the workplace for purposes of workers’ compensation coverage. It is not yet clear how these presumptions will be applied in wrongful death lawsuits, if at all.

More importantly, employers are faced with a dilemma on the question of causation because they have an affirmative obligation under the OSHA Act, and some state laws, to make an independent determination of whether an employee’s illness is work-related for reporting purposes. An employer who reports an illness as work-related, perhaps because of a cluster of coworker cases, is conceding causation, potentially early in the employee’s illness without knowing the extent or risk of a lawsuit. Similarly, an employer that fails to record an employee COVID-19 infection as work-related will no doubt find its investigation highly scrutinized and picked apart if there is subsequent litigation.

Can the Employee Prove The Employer Acted With Intent?

Each state has its own legal standard for allowing employee wrongful death lawsuits against an employer. Most states require an injured employee to prove the injury or illness was caused by an intentional act of the employer. But, some states have a lower standard for liability. For example, Texas allows such suits in the event of a fatality where the employer is proven liable only for gross negligence. California allows a suit where an employer fraudulently conceals the injury and its connection with employment. Cases in California involving harmful exposure to asbestos and other pathogens could easily be analogized to COVID-19.

No doubt, the threshold for establishing gross negligence or intentional wrongdoing is a high one, but applying the benefit of hindsight to the actions of many employers during the pandemic will leave a lot of room for second-guessing. The world has changed so quickly that decisions made early in the year may not stand up with the benefit of the information gained later in the pandemic. In addition, the political nature of the pandemic has spilled over into many workplaces, creating dangerous opportunities for supervisors or managers to make comments that are taken out of context and used against the employer. 

Steps Employers Can Take To Prepare

Employers should assume that every decision and document related to protecting employees from COVID-19 will be scrutinized at some point in the future during litigation. Whether it is an OSHA complaint, whistleblower claim, or wrongful death lawsuit, the employer may need to demonstrate its good faith efforts to comply with the law and protect employee health. The events of this year have moved so quickly that employers may have trouble rebuilding the timeline of events and recreating all of the important steps that were taken. Consider creating a COVID-19 officer who creates a file of materials, including photographs and important policies and employee communications to have readily available.

Take the duty under OSHA to investigate the origins of an employee COVID-19 case seriously and document the process. Prepare a short memo to the file for every case outlining why the employer is or is not logging the case as a work-related lost-time illness. 

Train managers on company policies and the importance of enforcing those policies consistently. You would not allow managers to be lax due to “contrary opinions” on the importance of hard hats or fall protection, and the same discipline must be brought to bear on safety rules involving COVID-19 such as masks and other PPE.

Lastly, if an employee dies it is a tragedy that should be recognized by the company. A caring and sympathetic response from coworkers sends the message that the employee mattered, and will be missed. Although it is obviously important to avoid communications regarding the source of the illness, expressions of condolences and support are not only appropriate but the right and human thing to do.

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The New Breed of Business Traveller

The business traveller after Covid-19 will be very different. Not only will their travel be subject to new restrictions and safety measures, they will also look different. That’s because we’re likely to see a significant shift in the demographic of people who travel for business. Why and what is the impact of this? Emanuele Scansani from travel risk intelligence experts Riskline explores further.

The huge uptake of virtual meetings as a result of the Covid-19 crisis has prompted both individuals and businesses to reconsider the need for face to face meetings. Employees want – as much as possible – to hold on to some of the work life balance they enjoyed during lockdown restrictions and may also have health and safety concerns around resuming travel. 

From a business perspective, savings from the near-zero travel expenses in these months will not go unnoticed in a time when many businesses are looking to save costs and resources. Combine this with the high capability of virtual technologies to create a near-perfect remote experience, and it’s likely that the necessity of business travel will be scrutinised more closely. A compelling – and detailed – business case will need to be put forward to justify business travel within a company.

Gone are the days of uninformed travel

Employees will demand a whole new level of information before and during their travel in order to feel confident enough to travel. Once they step on to a plane and travel internationally, businesses will need to strictly monitor the slew of new measures that will be in place – many of which have not yet even been decided – imposed by governments, corporate health & safety, travel insurance and by corporate travel policy managers. Travel policies will need to adapt to ensure travel is executed well within these new parameters. Business travel will have to be tightly planned and controlled with duty of care a priority both for the individual and the business.

The changing demographic of the business traveller

Recent research has shown that senior business travellers in particular are keen to see a high level of health and safety practices in place before they travel again post Covid-19. Baby Boomers (that’s those born between 1944 and 1964) want to see more stringent travel safety protocols. Nearly 70% want to see passenger health screenings at airports, compared with less than half of millennials, according to a survey by Destination’s Analysts. The report also shows that 66% of Boomers want to see cleaning protocols, published compared to just 48% of millennials. 

If we safely assume then that without safety measures in place, senior business travellers are unlikely to want to travel, then this may pose a problem for businesses. Why? Older employees tend to be more senior within the business and often among the key decision makers. If a business decides to restrict travel to selected employees, then surely it’s the older members of staff who need to travel – to meet face to face and have the authority to make key decisions on the spot?

With research indicating that Boomers are unwilling to travel post Covid-19, it’s also possible that companies may not want older employees to travel either, because of the risk they pose – there’s the potential cost impact on repatriation and health care to consider. A company may well look to undertake a “fit for travel” health check on staff before they travel and choose to send only those who pass with a clean bill of health. However, this process is far from straight forward. There’s a minefield of legal and privacy concerns surrounding this. An employer cannot force an employee to disclose information about any health conditions, but an employer can ask about a medical condition if it’s thought that the condition might affect the employee’s ability to do their job.

This is where we’ll see the rise of the millennial business traveller. Not only are they more willing to travel, they’re also arguably more likely to pass any health tests carried out before travel as they’re within the age range that’s deemed ‘less affected’ by Covid-19. And there are many of them. Before coronavirus gripped the world, millennials were fast becoming the predominant business traveller, taking an average of 7.4 trips per year (according to Skift) against the average of 6.3 trips per year by boomers. We’re only like to see this upward trend solidify in the months and years ahead, particularly when taking into consideration the pent-up demand to travel as a result of recent restrictions.

Millennial business travellers, many of whom will have yet to progress to senior positions, may also see business travel as an opportunity to demonstrate their merits and further their careers. They’re also keen on mixing business and pleasure, often extend the corporate trip into a personal one. This may be even more so after restrictions are lifted due to sheer pent-up demand, people who love to travel have been unable to do so for such an extended period. These co-called “bleisure” travellers will still have concerns about health and safety and will be asking new questions around where their business insurance ends, and their personal travel insurance begins.

Businesses need to be prepared and ensure they have the right information available in order to give this new breed of business traveller the detail they need to travel safely in this new world.

Emanuele Scansani, Director of Partnerships & Strategic Relations at Riskline, is delivering a session From Wuhan to Barcelona: How Social Resilience and Social Laxity Impact Business Travel – at The Global Travel Risk Summit Europ

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Cannabis and Hemp: Up in Smoke? How the Hospitality Industry Can Avoid Traps for the Unwary

The director of your spa program calls, noting that your top competitor is offering CBD-infused massages. Your marketing team wants to engage in “Canna-Tourism,” encouraging guests to visit the property because it is within walking distance of a hot new dispensary. And your F&B director has big plans for a new menu focusing on cannabis- and hemp-infused edibles and cocktails.

While cannabis and hemp present potentially lucrative opportunities for the hospitality industry, there are several traps for the unwary.

This article will identify some of those traps, and discuss how to avoid them:

  1. Trap 1: Imperiling Your Liquor License. For many in the hospitality industry, liquor serves as a significant source of revenue. In many states, though, it is illegal to sell or allow for the consumption of cannabis at a liquor-licensed premises. Further, some states do not distinguish between cannabis and hemp. In those states, offering hemp-based products and services can similarly jeopardize your liquor license. When in doubt, speak with your enforcement officer before launching any cannabis- or hemp-related activities at your liquor-licensed premises.
  2. Trap 2: Using Hemp in Foods and Beverages. Under the FDA’s current guidance, it is federally illegal to include CBD or THC in foods and beverages introduced into interstate commerce, even if hemp-derived. Many states follow the FDA’s guidance, even for foods and beverages that have not crossed state lines. So, consult with your counsel or a state regulator before using hemp in your foods and beverages.
  3. Trap 3: Accepting Percentage-Based Fees from a Cannabis Licensee. Some in the hospitality industry are exploring percentage-based fees from cannabis licensees. Examples include percentage-based advertising fees (e.g. advertising a local dispensary in the property’s marketing collateral, and then receiving a percentage of the dispensary’s sales) and percentage-based rent (e.g. leasing a portion of the premises to a cannabis licensee, and receiving percentage-based rent). Before accepting any percentage-based fees, it is important to examine applicable law. Pursuant to many states’ cannabis laws, anyone receiving a percentage of the licensed entity’s revenue must be disclosed, vetted and identified on the cannabis license. In most jurisdictions, the property can avoid these issues by accepting payments on a flat-fee basis, rather than a percentage-fee basis.
  4. Trap 4: Failing to Update Insurance Policies. Many insurance policies include robust exclusions for cannabis-related claims and, to a lesser extent, hemp-related claims. Before you offer cannabis- and hemp-related products and services, speak with your broker to confirm that your policy covers these activities.
  5. Trap 5: Failing to Appoint a Compliance Officer. We are in a period of rapid change in the cannabis and hemp industries. With that in mind, it is helpful to appoint a Compliance Officer to address all cannabis- and hemp-related activities for your company. In coordination with your Legal Department and/or outside counsel, the Compliance Officer is generally tasked with monitoring changes in state and federal laws, addressing any necessary changes to insurance policies, creating and timely updating company-wide cannabis and hemp policies, procedures and manuals, and reviewing all contracts touching cannabis and/or hemp. The Compliance Officer also provides ongoing training to ensure that all employees have up-to-date knowledge of the applicable requirements.

Good luck!

This article contains educational information necessarily of a general nature that cannot be construed as legal advice.

This article is part of our Conference Materials Library and has a PowerPoint counterpart that can be accessed in the Resource Libary.® provides numerous resources to all sponsors and attendees of The Hospitality Law Conference: Series 2.0 (Houston and Washington D.C.). If you have attended one of our conferences in the last 12 months you can access our Travel Risk Library, Conference Materials Library, ADA Risk Library, Electronic Journal, Rooms Chronicle and more, by creating an account. Our libraries are filled with white papers and presentations by industry leaders, hotel and restaurant experts, and hotel and restaurant lawyers. Click here to create an account or, if you already have an account, click here to login.

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Houston Restaurateur, Tony Vallone Passes After a Full Life and Long Legacy

55-years of Excellence and Innovation in Food and Service

Houston, Texas- September 10, 2020– It is with heavy hearts we share the passing of Houston Restaurateur, Tony Vallone. The country has lost one of the greatest mentors, chefs, and restaurateurs. Tony’s legacy will continue on with his restaurant, Tony’s in Greenway Plaza and Tony’s Catering. 

Tony always said “I’m going out with pasta in one hand and fish in the other,” an ode to his passion and adoration for cuisine. Tony passed along that passion to many throughout the city and country and served as a mentor for his Executive Chef Austin Waiter, General Manager Eric Pryor and his devoted team past and present- some of whom worked with Tony for 40-plus years. 

Tony’s wish was for the restaurant to continue, and Donna Vallone alongside Tony’s staff and family will honor that wish and his legacy with normal business operations after a brief closure from Thursday, September 10 to Monday, September 14th reopening on Tuesday, September 15th. 

Donna Vallone, Tony’s wife of 36 years and partner stated “I’ve lost the love of my life and best friend, but I will continue Tony’s legacy.” 

Many were impacted by Tony’s vigor for the restaurant industry and learned from his dedication to excellence, innovation and attention to detail. Tony strived to provide every guest with an experience of excellence in food and service and Chef Austin Waiter, General Manager Eric Pryor and the integral team will carry on his renowned legacy. 

A memorial service will be held at a later date and there will be more details to come in regards to memoriam donations. 


Tony’s For more than 55 years Tony’s has served the Houston community and beyond. Tony’s is renowned for excellence in food and service made with the best quality ingredients. Tony’s presents fine dining Italian inspired by Naples, influenced by Milan and cherished in Houston.

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