The Coronavirus-induced new reality that we’re living in has raised an understandably large amount of questions – even more so as states begin reopening. The presence of COVID-19 is likely to develop a new area of premises liability law that establishments will be confronting over the next several years regarding Coronavirus injuries. As community health and safety remains the top priority, customers are rightfully hesitant about returning to stores and local businesses. This hesitation is rooted in concern over how businesses and business owners will work to eliminate the spread of Coronavirus. Can a negligent business and its owners be held liable for Coronavirus-related deaths under the legal theory of premises liability?
What is Premises Liability?
Premises liability is a legal concept under which property owners owe a duty of care to all visitors who enter their premises. If a visitor is injured as the result of a property owner’s negligence, then the owner could potentially be held liable for the subsequent injuries or death. The level of care legally required by a property owner to each property visitor depends both on the type of property and the reason for the visit.
In general, businesses have a legal duty to provide safe spaces for workers and/or customers. That means different things in different workplace settings, but in terms of COVID-19 and Coronavirus injuries, this duty should include the following actions:
- Sending symptomatic or sick employees home to seek medical care
- Providing supplies and equipment to sanitize the premises and promote proper hygiene (like hand washing)
- Taking the proper precautions, following federal guidelines for employees who have recently traveled to outbreak areas
- Communicating reporting protocols to staff, so they can promptly notify the proper parties
How Can Businesses Be Held Liable?
In general, premises liability dictates a proprietor must make safe or warn of any known dangerous conditions; however, courts have not yet decided whether the general knowledge of the potential for a high level of spread of COVID-19 will constitute notice to the property owner and/or fair warning to a customer of Coronavirus injuries.
Given the public health crisis and state mandated health and safety orders, businesses and property owners should actively engage in all recommended and required precautions when it comes to the health and safety of all visitors. It should be noted that while a property owner cannot guarantee the health and safety of every visitor, they do have a duty of care to take specific action to prevent injury or death. In the case of the highly infectious Coronavirus, this means that businesses allowed to open should not only adhere to safety guidelines but should also implement proper sanitation and personal protective equipment requirements. The necessary precautions will differ depending on the type of business, such as a restaurant versus a grocery store.
If a visitor becomes ill and ultimately dies from Coronavirus contracted visiting a property that failed to enforce adequate sanitation, use personal protective equipment (masks), and socially distance, then the property owner could potentially be held liable. For this reason, it’s crucial for victims to be represented by a skilled personal injury trial lawyer who can demonstrate the building’s actions or inactions caused the injury or death of a visitor.
Lubbock Premises Liability Lawyers for Coronavirus Injuries
Just as almost nearly every aspect of life has been impacted by the Coronavirus, premises liability claims are no different. Unfortunately, victims and their loved ones have new hurdles to face as businesses and property owners rush to reopen and fail to provide visitors with a safe environment. Businesses that continue to disregard state mandated orders regarding health and sanitary precautions are knowingly putting visitors as well as employees in danger of contracting the highly contagious virus. Coronavirus-related premises liability victims and their loved ones deserve to focus on healing. If you or someone you know has been seriously injured or killed due a negligent business or property owner, contact the Lubbock premises liability lawyers at Liggett Law Group, P.C. today for a free and confidential new case consultation.