Second-Hand COVID Claims Aren’t Barred by Worker’s Compensation Law

Three weeks ago, the California Court of Appeal met in San Francisco. Superior Court v. See’s Candies, Inc.. Generally speaking, worker’s compensation laws provide that workers are compensated for on-the-job injury with no need to prove fault on the employer’s part—but the flip side of this “worker’s compensation bargain” is that they can’t sue employers in court for further damages based on such on-the-job injuries.

However, what happens when an employee contracts COVID while at work and his family (or other) are infected? (Here, a man’s wife—who was the one had been allegedly infected at work—and children are suing because the man died after having been infected by the wife.) They can sue their employer, alleging that the employer failed to prevent COVID from happening, or are the workers’ compensation agreements preventing them from suing?

They can sue. The Court of Appeal cited some past contagious diseases cases and rejected several COVID court cases which had ruled against liability.

By the way, the employer’s negligence claim is that its employees had “worked without proper and necessary social ditancing at the packing line” as well as “used restrooms and break rooms at times”. [or]Only a few steps from the other workers. Some of them were coughing. [and] sneezing.” The plaintiff would have to also prove causation. This is difficult because of the nature of these airborne diseases, however, it might not seem so daunting considering how far back the outbreak was in March 2020. The defendant may also contend that the spouse was partly negligent depending on the facts. This would reduce plaintiff’s recovery rather than stop it entirely.