As Florida Reopens, And Some Return to Work, Many Worry About Exposure to COVID-19
As states, including Florida, prepare to reopen, one of the biggest questions that many have – whether it involves returning to work, or visiting a number of businesses, such as salons or gyms—is what responsibility property owners will have to the public in terms of their safety with respect to the virus, and what liability will result if someone does get sick. In fact, a number of premises liability and negligence lawsuits have already been filed over employees of Walmart and Tyson Foods suffering from work-related injuries, contracting COVID-19, and dying, and whose families are now bringing suit against their employers, arguing that failure to provide them with the appropriate personal protective equipment and protect them from the virus cost them their loved ones’ lives.
When Employers Behave Egregiously
In cases where workers simply contracted COVID-19 at work, state compensation laws may cover compensation related to the illness. However, there will also be instances which arguably involve egregious conduct by an employer, and which may warrant workers going beyond workers’ comp and suing employers directly. For example, hospitals that failed to provide doctors and nurses with facemasks, factories that forced workers to work in close proximity to each other in spite of reports that workers were sick, etc. all arguably fall within the parameters of failing to take basic precautions and behaving egregiously. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regularly released guidance on preparing workplaces for COVID-19; as did the Centers for Disease Control. While not mandatory, if employers completely ignored basic suggestions provided by state and/or federal agencies regarding keeping workplaces safe, their conduct could be found to be egregious, intentional, or willful by a court.
Customers & Businesses
When it comes to customers visiting businesses who claim to have contracted the virus while on the business’ property, in addition to premises liability and negligence, customers could also bring claims related to false advertising and misrepresentation (if the business made any claims related or similar to guaranteeing safety), negligent hiring, infliction of emotional distress, and related claims, depending upon the circumstances.
The challenging aspect in all of these cases will be plaintiffs proving causation (because the virus is everywhere) and determining timelines in terms of when exactly exposure occurred, given the scarcity of testing available since the outbreak began. Regardless, businesses will need to prove that they took those precautions necessary to keep people safe, in accordance with recommendations from both state and federal agencies. They also need to train and monitor employees on following safety protocols and be careful about making any claims to the public concerning safety guaranteed to customers.
If You Have Been Hurt, Contact A Dedicated Florida Premises Liability Lawyer
If you or a loved one has concerns about injuries or wrongful death due to negligence exhibited by a Florida property owner, Tampa premises liability attorney Mark H. Wright can help. Our office has spent more than three decades helping victims obtain the compensation they need. Contact us today for a free, safe consultation—we are working through this time to ensure that our clients are provided with the legal services that they need.