California’s highest court to consider employer liability for COVID infections
(Reuters) – California’s highest state court has agreed to decide whether employers can be held liable under state law when their workers contract COVID-19 on the job and pass it on to loved ones.
The California Supreme Court on Wednesday granted a request from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear a case brought by Corby Kuciemba, who says she fell seriously ill with COVID-19 after her husband was exposed to the virus while working with Victory Woodworks Inc. in San Francisco.
Ms Kuciemba, in a 2020 lawsuit, accused Victory of negligence and creating “public nuisance” by failing to enact safety policies to stop the spread of COVID. She is appealing a ruling by a federal judge in San Francisco who said her claims were covered by workers’ compensation and she could not sue Victory in court.
Business groups have said allowing employers to be held liable for so-called “take-home” COVID infections will result in lawsuits not just from family and friends of workers, but from anyone infected with this circle of people.
Companies like Amazon.com Inc., Walmart Inc., McDonald’s Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. have faced similar lawsuits. Lawyers for Ms. Kucimeba and Victory Woodworks did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
In April, the 9th Circuit asked the California Supreme Court to hear the case, saying the state court should decide whether the state’s workers’ compensation law covers workers’ COVID infections. relatives of workers and whether employers have a general legal obligation to prevent the spread of COVID.
Federal appellate courts can ask state courts to answer new questions that arise under state law. The California Supreme Court will decide the legal issues, leaving the 9th Circuit to apply its decision to Ms. Kuciemba’s case.
Earlier in April, the California Supreme Court declined to review a state appeals court’s ruling that a See’s Candies Inc. employee whose husband died after giving him COVID-19 could sue the company. It was the first such decision.
The current case is Kuciemba vs. Victory WoodworksCalifornia Supreme Court.