This post discusses with how the Covid 19 pandemic might interact with the legal system. One way is potential liability on the part of employers – can they be sued if an employee or customer contracts the virus? There is a very short answer in the case of employer/employee interaction – no. Almost 100 years ago, our Legislature, like every other state, passed the Workers’ Compensation law which, in exchange for no-fault benefits for employees who are hurt or become ill at work, prohibits lawsuits. However, an employee who contracts the virus because of exposure at work is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits – primarily payment of medical bills and disability benefits. The problem is that you must prove you caught it at work, which is not always easy. For that reason, one of the Governor’s early Executive Orders included a presumption that first responders who contract the virus did so at work. Unfortunately, that has not been extended to all essential workers.
In the case of customers or vendors, although there is a theoretical right to sue a business which you believe negligently caused you to be exposed to Covid, the problem of proving that link is even more difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, although there has been much debate nationally and at the State level about passing legislation to “protect” employers from these suits, my practical experience as a lawyer leads me to believe that this is an attempt to “fix what ain’t broke”, as they used to say when I was in the Legislature!