Family Files COVID-19 Lawsuit After Workplace Fatality
Every state in the U.S. right now has some form of COVID-19 liability protection for businesses. Essentially, as a worker or a customer, it is nearly impossible to sue the place for contracting COVID. While the standards change from state to state, plaintiffs only have a small crack in the armor that they can exploit to get their lawsuit in front of a jury. The business must have completely ignored prevailing safety recommendations issued by either the CDC or the county in which they reside. In those cases, workers may be able to overcome the liability shield.
Understanding typical infection lawsuits
If I get an infection from a restaurant or aboard a cruise ship (two common places people get exposed to infectious disease), it can be nearly impossible to file a lawsuit against the business. However, COVID is slightly different. It is not environmentally or situationally bound to any place or time. It’s everywhere. It’s on our minds. It’s something everyone has to prepare for, and because of that, there are specific requirements placed on businesses.
While it can be nearly impossible to prove where you got an infection, you don’t have to “prove” anything in a civil trial. You just need to establish that your theory of what happened is more likely than the defendant’s theory. If a business operates under lax COVID-19 standards, then the risk of contagion increases within that business. It is hence more probable than not that a person who worked 8 hours a day in one place contracted the infection there as opposed to elsewhere. While Texas doesn’t allow plaintiffs to make it that easy, all you really need is an expert witness to testify that you contracted the virus at work. They can say something like, “it’s never 100%, but the most likely place they contracted the virus was the place where they spent 8 hours a day around other sick people.”
Thus, some lawsuits have been allowed to move forward because the plaintiffs were able to allege that the business took few or no steps in protecting their workers or the public from the pandemic. In fact, a business’s liability shield is based entirely on their willingness to adopt prevailing health recommendations issued by government authorities. When they fail, they can be held liable.
In most of the lawsuits, OSHA issued citations against the companies related to COVID violations.
What will happen?
It’s unclear. The lawsuits must survive summary dismissal based on COVID liability shields and to do that, the plaintiffs will need to jump through several hoops. If the court decides that you need to be 100% positive that the infection came from your place of employment, then exactly 0% of litigants will win their claims, since that is logistically not possible. No expert will testify they are 100% certain that an individual was exposed to COVID at a specific place and time. Latency periods differ from case to case, kids get exposed to COVID at school and bring it home. So “proving” an infection point is practically impossible.
Talk to a Houston Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you have sustained an injury due to the negligence of another party, the Houston personal injury lawyers at Livingston & Flowers can help you recover damages related to your medical expenses, lost wages, and reduced quality of life. Call today to schedule a free consultation and we can discuss your options in more detail.