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Could COVID-19 lawsuits reach pandemic levels?

SERVING TEMECULA AND THE SAN DIEGO METRO

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An offshoot of the COVID-19 pandemic saw the advent of “take-home cases.” People who work onsite at businesses that contract the virus and bring it home have become fodder for lawsuits. In response, a majority of states enacted laws that created difficulties in filing these claims unless gross negligence played a role.

California is an outlier in that trend. A recent verdict may force lawmakers to change course. Days before Christmas, an appellate judge ruled that a wrongful death lawsuit against See’s Candies, Inc. could proceed.

Arturo Ek, whose wife Matilde worked for the well-known candy company, died from coronavirus in April 2020. His spouse worked in close proximity to her fellow workers and purportedly brought the illness home. The lawsuit that claims safety protocol violations resulted in multiple infections is the first of its kind to move forward.

More lawsuits possible

The decision could lead to a wave of similar lawsuits in California and nationwide. Other legal actions include high-profile defendants that include Walmart, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Conagra, and Pilgrim’s Pride. These and countless other companies see it as a “never-ending chain” of liability that could severely affect businesses, many of which are still recovering from the impact of coronavirus.

Common threads among all the lawsuits claim negligence caused by a lack of COVID-19 protocols, including poor screening upon entering the workplace. Many plaintiffs include family members of employees’ children and spouses whose illnesses ranged from the need for ventilators or deaths.

Emerging from the pandemic will require a look back on the shortcomings and failures in protecting people from contracting the virus. Looking forward may involve holding companies accountable for falling short in ensuring staff safety.