Could I file suit against a business if I am infected with coronavirus?
Across much of the nation, businesses are slowly reopening after months of being shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. New York City, the hardest hit with COVID-19 disease, has been the most delayed in reopening. Now, however, all ten regions of New York have begun a four-phase reopening process. As businesses in New York City start to welcome back employees and customers, a main concern among business owners is whether they could face liability should COVID-19 spread in their business. Customers may likewise be wondering if they have legal rights should they become infected in a store or other establishment. Our NYC personal injury lawyers discuss the issues surrounding businesses and COVID-19 liability below.
Are Fears of Liability Unfounded?
Some Republican lawmakers are currently pushing for extra liability protections to be put in place to protect business owners from lawsuits. Others are disputing whether these protections and fears of litigation are truly founded. Thus far, the number of coronavirus related personal injury lawsuits remains small. Only 45 such suits were filed against businesses as of early May. However, with thousands of businesses now reopening, the potential exists for more litigation.
Winning a personal injury lawsuit based on coronavirus exposure may prove difficult. A customer who claims they contracted the virus in a retail establishment or other business would need to prove the business’ negligence and causation in order to potentially receive damages. The customer would need to establish that the business owner did not take necessary precautionary measures, like disinfecting surfaces or mandating social distancing. They would then need to prove they contracted coronavirus from the business, which could prove tough given the long incubation period of the virus.
As such, even absent further government protections, business owners have some insulation from liability. Nonetheless, the potential for liability does exist and personal injury lawsuits based on coronavirus are bound to emerge. Businesses can protect themselves by ensuring they take appropriate safety precautions, including enforcing social distancing and considering mandating masks. Customers or employees who do end up sick and can trace their illness to the lax policies of an NYC business should consult with a personal injury lawyer for a review of their potential case.