The coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented event that our nation is still in the midst of, and we will not know the full extent of its consequences for quite some time. What we do know, however, is that hundreds of thousands of Americans have tested positive for the virus and tens of thousands have died from it. And because the vast majority of our population has not been tested yet, it is reasonable to assume that there are countless additional cases that we do not know about.
One of the important questions that a growing number of people are asking is what legal rights COVID-19 victims have. Can someone who contracts the virus because of another person or party’s wrongful actions bring a personal injury lawsuit against those responsible? Can the family of someone who died from the coronavirus bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party?
This is a rapidly emerging area of the law, and the legal system is still in the process of determining the answers to these questions and in what circumstances a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit would be appropriate.
Cruise Ships where the Coronavirus Spreads
One of the first places where massive outbreaks of COVID-19 began to affect Americans was on cruise ships. Large groups of people being in an enclosed environment for several days at a time causes the virus to spread very quickly, and to date, tens of thousands of passengers and crew members from cruise ships all over the world have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Several lawsuits have been filed against cruise ship companies, including a class-action suit against Costa Cruises, a subsidiary of Carnival Cruise Lines. Experts warn, however, that these lawsuits face an uphill battle because of liability limits that are hidden in passengers’ paperwork, maritime laws, and the fact that many of the cruise ship companies are based in foreign countries.
Hospitals and Nursing Homes that Fail to Protect Patients from COVID-19
The first major coronavirus outbreak on US soil was at a nursing home in the state of Washington, where dozens of patients died. While it may be difficult to hold the very first facilities that had outbreaks liable for the spread of COVID-19, it is a different story for those that have been infected by the virus after these facilities knew (or should have known) about the risks and failed to follow proper safety protocols.
Businesses that Fail to Protect Employees and Customers from the Coronavirus
Earlier this month, Walmart was sued by the family of an employee who died of COVID-19 after contracting the virus while working at one of the company’s Chicago area stores. The suit alleges that managers of the store failed to alert employees after several of them began showing symptoms of the coronavirus. The 51-year-old victim is said to have informed a store manager in mid-March that he was having symptoms, but that the manager ignored him. On March 25, he was found dead in his home.
The circumstances that triggered the Walmart wrongful death lawsuit are a prime example of what can happen when a business fails to implement proper safety protocols to protect their employees and customers. If it can be shown, for example, that management knew (or should have known) that an employee was infected and/or their product was contaminated by COVID-19, those who become seriously ill or die as a result should be able to hold those who are responsible fully accountable.
Individuals Who Spread the Coronavirus
What about an individual who knowingly spreads COVID-19 to others? For example, a person tests positive for the coronavirus and fails to self-quarantine. Instead, they go out to the grocery store and expose countless others to the virus. Unfortunately, there are those who are not taking this situation as seriously as they should, and this could result in other individuals becoming seriously ill or dying from the virus. A person could be held liable for this provided you could prove that they knew they had the coronavirus and continued to expose others to it.
Bailey, Javins, and Carter L.C. is Here to Help
There are a lot of questions that are yet to be answered about liability for illness or death from the coronavirus, and as this area of law develops, we will gain a clearer picture of when and under what circumstances it would be appropriate to sue someone for a COVID-19 infection or death. That said, if this has happened to you or a loved one, we recommend getting in contact with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to review your case. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will become to successfully pursue a claim.
At Bailey, Javins, and Carter L.C., we have over four decades of experience standing up for those who have been injured by the negligence or reckless actions of others. We have a successful track record with even the most complex cases, and we have been at the forefront of many emerging areas of the law. While our country continues to deal with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, we continue to be fully operational while taking all the safety precautions and observing social distancing guidelines.
For a free, no obligation consultation with one of our attorneys, message us online or call our office today at (800) 497-0234 or (800) 296-6979. We look forward to serving you!