Q: Can an employer be liable if a worker contracts COVID-19 at work?
The coronavirus, or COVID-19, has turned the nation upside down with government directives locking down most of the country for extended periods of time. While the race for effective treatments and a new vaccine continues, record numbers of victims have perished as the unprecedented volume of cases threatened to overwhelm healthcare systems. Personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death claims related to the virus are already being commenced.
Among the victims are many “essential workers” like doctors, nurses, police officers, firefighters– and less conventional “heroes” like grocery store workers who likely never contemplated that their jobs could become life-threatening.
In addition to its impact on medicine, COVID-19 cases will impact the field of law as well. One of the first of what will likely be many COVID-19 related negligence lawsuits against employers was commenced against Walmart by the survivors of an essential worker who allegedly died from the virus after contracting at work.
Santa Fe wrongful death cases are brought when someone dies as a result of someone else’s negligent, reckless, or intentional actions. Common scenarios that lead to wrongful death lawsuits include car or truck accidents, medical malpractice, product liability, and workplace accidents. To prevail, the victim’s representative has the burden of proving that the defendant’s actions caused or contributed to the victim’s death.
Possible allegations in a COVID-19 negligence action against an employer
In the above Walmart case, it was reportedly alleged that the employer was negligent for failing to:
- provide workers with necessary supplies or protective gear
- provide workers with necessary training
- properly or adequately disinfect the work place
- to follow social distancing guidelines
- to warn employees of other workers with symptoms of COVID-19.
Walmart is expected to vigorously defend the lawsuit. Company representatives reportedly claimed the store in question passed multiple safety inspections and that its stores throughout the country have provided workers with safety equipment, sneeze guards, and marked floors with tape to help maintain social distancing.
COVID-19 based negligence and wrongful death lawsuits will be breaking new ground and how individual states handle them remains to be seen.
If you or a loved one has been injured or a loved one has been killed as the result of someone else’s negligence, the Hunt Law Firm can help maximize the compensation to which you may be entitled. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.
From our office in Santa Fe, we represent injury victims in Albuquerque, Rio Rancho, Raton, Roswell, Los Alamos, Las Vegas, and throughout the state of New Mexico.