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Can You Sue if You Contract COVID-19 at Work?

June 16, 2020

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

In early May, the family of a worker at a meat processing plant filed a lawsuit against the company in Philadelphia. The suit alleges that the company was negligent in their safety practices and that their negligence resulted in the death of the worker. As an essential service, the plant has been open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the lawsuit, the company did not provide enough safety practices to keep their workers safe. People worked alongside each other with no physical distancing put in place, and the workers were also not provided with personal protection equipment (PPE).

This lawsuit is one of several that have been filed around the country and, as the pandemic is not yet fully under control, there are likely going to be more. So, can you sue your employer if you contract COVID-19 at work?

Proving Causation

One of the biggest obstacles in filing a lawsuit that involves COVID-19 is that the plaintiff must prove that the disease was contracted at work. Although people are not traveling extensively or even visiting friends as everyone practices physical distancing, there is still a good chance that essential workers are going to other places, such as the grocery store. Workers may have contracted the virus while at these other locations, and not necessarily while they were at work. However, for a lawsuit to be successful, plaintiffs must prove this aspect of their case.

Workers’ Compensation

Another complication in any act of employer negligence is workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation in Pennsylvania is no-fault, meaning that if you or your employer was negligent and that caused your injury or illness, you must still go through workers’ compensation and neither you nor your employer must prove negligence in a lawsuit. The workers’ comp laws in the state typically bar employees from suing their employer, and this is likely the case with COVID-19, as well. However, if a third party was liable for a worker contracting the virus, such as the manufacturer of defective masks, employees could file a lawsuit against that third party.

Potential Legislation

Lastly, some lawmakers are also trying to pass legislation that would protect businesses from lawsuits related to COVID-19. The possible legislation is intended to help business owners feel more confident about reopening their doors. On the other hand, Democrats are pushing back on the bill, stating that it shows disregard for the safety of workers.

Do You Think You Have a Lawsuit? Call Our Pennsylvania Personal Injury Lawyers

As Americans continue to live with the coronavirus, there are likely going to be even more lawsuits emerging around the state, and the entire country. If you feel as though another person’s negligence caused you to contract COVID-19, call our Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim. We will review your case, advise you of your legal options, and help you pursue any compensation you are entitled to. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.


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