One of the biggest questions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic is whether we’ll be able to hold others responsible for negligently transmitting the virus. Over the last year and a half, this highly transmissible virus has killed over 600,000 Americans and left millions of others with long-lasting, devastating side effects.
Many employers still required employees to come to work. Some failed to provide adequate safety measures, which left these “essential workers” at risk of contracting the disease—or passing it on to others.
That’s what happened to one Southwest Airlines employee. She was required to come in for a mandatory safety meeting, and claims that the airline did not provide adequate measures to prevent the spread of the virus. She and her husband soon tested positive for COVID-19, and her husband died as a result. She filed a wrongful death suit in Maryland.
If you followed all local, state and CDC guidance during the pandemic—yet contracted COVID-19 as a result of your employer’s negligence—you’d likely want to hold them responsible. Unfortunately, in this case, the Maryland court found that Southwest owed no duty to third party plaintiffs. “Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher in her opinion granting the airline’s motion to dismiss the case found that Maryland courts have to balance the factors in favor of finding a duty against the fear of ‘opening the floodgates’ to third-party plaintiffs, particularly in cases covering spousal relationships.”
A case in Maryland court is not binding precedent for cases in Ohio. A similar case, dismissed in a California district court, is not considered precedent either. However, lawyers are watching them with avid interest. In the California case, “most of the claims in the lawsuit [were] barred due to the ‘exclusive remedy’ provisions of workers’ compensation, under which the husband is precluded from suing his company directly. Chesney also ruled that the couple’s suit did not meet the required threshold, or standing, to hold the employer liable for creating a public nuisance.”
What does this mean for Ohioans in a similar position? We don’t yet know how Ohio courts will rule on similar issues—but if they accept the reasoning of the California and Maryland courts, they may decide that the interests of employers supersede the rights of employees and their families.
Call an Ohio Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you or a family member suffered from COVID-related injuries and illness due to an employer’s negligence, talking to an attorney can help you understand the legal options available. If a court finds them liable, I’ll Make Them Pay!® Call my office at 877.614.9524 today for a consultation.