Sep 28, 2020 - Economy

Businesses face "take home" COVID-19 lawsuits

Gavel hitting patient in hospital bed

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

New peril for employers: Wrongful death "take home" lawsuits from the coronavirus, using the prior examples of asbestos.

Why it matters: Employers enjoy legal protections and liability caps under workers' compensation laws, but these lawsuits could skirt those protections, Reuters reports.

How it works: Plaintiffs will need to both prove that businesses were negligent on safety and that employees spread the virus to their family members. Some examples, per Reuters...

  • Lawsuit 1: The daughter of Ricardo Ugalde sued his employer, a packing plant in Illinois, alleging they placed workers "shoulder to shoulder" in April, without additional safety protections. Ugalde's wife died of COVID-19.
  • Lawsuit 2: The wife of Servando Reynoso sued his employer, an electrical components manufacturer, alleging she contracted the virus (and suffered organ damage) while caring for him after he got sick. His employer says staff wore gloves and masks before COVID-19.

The bottom line: A worst-case liability scenario for employers has damages running as high as $21 billion if the U.S. reaches 300,000 coronavirus deaths, Reuters reports.

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