Surviving the Lawsuits, Viruses, Rising Costs

The California Supreme Court will hear arguments to decide if an employer can be held legally liable if an employee was allegedly exposed to COVID-19 in the workplace and brought it home. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has asked the High Court to review Kuciemba v. Victory Woodworks and See’s Candies Inc v. Superior Court to determine if an employer can be held liable if an employee contracts COVID-19 at work, takes it home, and a family member is affected or, worse, dies. The court will hear arguments about

If an employee contracts COVID-19 at his workplace and brings the virus home to his spouse, does California’s derivative injury doctrine bar the spouse’s claim against the employer?

Under California law, does an employer owe a duty to the households of its employees to exercise ordinary care to prevent the spread of COVID-19?

Can an employer assert an employee is covered under worker’s compensation?

          The High Court had refused to hear the See’s Candies case but will hear similar cases as more lawsuits are arising. In a lower court ruling the See’s Candies case allowed an employee to sue her employer as the employee claims she contracted the virus in her workplace because See’s failed to ensure workplace safety. She allegedly brought the infection home where her husband contracted it and later died. A lower court said it was not “an injury,” and was not covered by worker’s compensation. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is choosing not to rule on this and similar cases preferring instead to “punt” the cases to the high court.

          Other companies facing litigation are Amazon, Walmart, McDonald’s and Caribbean Cruises.

          COVID-19, monkeypox, influenza…where could this lead? What employer can afford to continue to operate if there is no way to prove how an employee contracted an infection or disease? If all precautions are taken, is an employee held personally liable for not taking personal precautions if trained in the employer’s precautions? Why would an employer be held liable for the negligent or intentional acts of an employee? The mandated RCFE liability insurance does NOT cover these claims.

          The hearing for date the Kuciemba case has not yet been set.