Posts

Can a Business Be Liable for Spreading Coronavirus?

The coronavirus pandemic has caused unimaginable harm throughout the country. Nearly every state in the union has had to partially close its economy in order to prevent the further spread of the virus. So far, over 150,000 people have lost their lives as a direct consequence of the virus, and the number may possibly be much higher by the time a workable vaccine is developed. Most states have passed regulations on the economy in order to forcibly prevent the spread of the virus. What’s more, most businesses which have remained open have instituted various safety measures to protect their employees.

If you have contracted the coronavirus, and you suspect that the contraction occurred due to the negligence of a business, the question becomes: can that business be held liable for any damages which result from the virus? The answer is a bit complicated and liability will be determined by your relationship with the business. In other words, were you an employee or a consumer?

Duty of Care

To start off, we should mention this critical fact: in order for someone to be held liable for another person’s damages, there must be a “duty of care.” The “standard of care” depends on the circumstances of a given situation. As a general rule, all employers owe their employees a certain duty of care to provide a safe work environment. Likewise, businesses owe a duty of care to protect consumers from harm or at the very least provide warning of potential harm. The precise methods which an employer or business must undertake in order to satisfy its duty of care depends heavily on the specific facts of the situation at hand. In the case of the coronavirus, employers clearly need to implement various types of safety precautions (i.e. masks, social distancing, etc.) in order to ensure that the threat of contraction is minimized on the job. Businesses have been mandated to limit the amount of consumers, and in some cases, have been precluded from conducting business at all (as in the case of bars). But, even if the precautions taken by employers and businesses are minimal, potential claimants should know that pinning responsibility for contraction of the virus on an employer or business will likely be very difficult.

Workers’ Compensation Law May Prevent a Lawsuit

Simply put, a substantial portion of potential coronavirus claimants are going to be barred from suing their employer because of workers’ compensation laws. Workers’ compensation insurance limits the benefits employee may recover from job losses and bars an employee’s ability to sue an employer for injuries caused at work because it is considered a no-fault policy. In other words, an employee doesn’t have to prove negligence and is entitled to benefits even if hurt as a result of his or her own actions. However, potential claimants may have a case if one of the following scenarios applies to their situation: (a) your employer lacks workers’ compensation insurance, (b) a third party caused your illness or injury, or (c) your illness came about because of intentional wrongdoing on the part of your employer.

Personal Injury Liability

Businesses owe a duty of care to consumers to provide them with a reasonably safe environment. Liability against businesses depends on the knowledge and conduct of the business and its employees. In a typical slip and fall case, the plaintiff has the burden of proof to show that the substance that he or she slipped on was present for a long enough time for someone to have noticed it and cleaned it up or warn of the potential danger. Liability depends on the reasonable actions of the liable party. In the case of the coronavirus, if a business refused to follow State mandates and failed to ensure its employees wore masks, thus making it more than likely that spreading the virus was due to its negligence, you could have a potential claim.

Coronavirus Damages May Be Difficult to Link to Employer or Business

Even if a potential claimant may have a viable case – say, in a situation in which workers’ compensation law doesn’t apply or where an exception may exist or where a business is blatantly disregarding public safety – linking the contraction of the virus to the employer or business may be extremely difficult. In order to be held liable, claimants need to show that the actions of the employer or business were the “proximate cause” (i.e. legal cause) of the injury. This may be a very steep hurdle to overcome in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. After all, some coronavirus victims don’t show symptoms for up to two weeks. Given that this is the case, being able to conclusively demonstrate that the employer is the proximate cause or that you contracted the virus at one specific business might be very challenging.

Reach Out to Apex Law Firm Today

This is just an introduction to the topic of employer and business liability for coronavirus-based damages. Although it’s clear that there may be many hurdles to a successful claim in this area, this doesn’t mean that a successful claim is impossible. If you’d like more information about this rapidly developing issue, contact Apex Law Firm today. Call us at 860-385-8360 and one of our professionals will respond to your query right away.