An unidentified COVID-19 patient is treated in the ICU at Providence St Joseph Hospital in Orange, California, U.S. July 23, 2021. REUTERS/Omar Younis
Jan 12 (Reuters) – As COVID-19 cases surge in the United States, businesses say they fear a California court ruling has increased the likelihood that companies will be sued for infections, even by people who are not employees or customers.
The Dec. 21 ruling allowed a wrongful death lawsuit to proceed against See's Candies Inc, owned by Berkshire Hathaway (BRKa.N), by the family of Arturo Ek of Los Angeles who died in April 2020 at 72 from COVID-19.
See's employed his wife, Matilde Ek, who said she was infected by the coronavirus while working inches apart from sick coworkers, and then her husband caught it from her at home.
The ruling is the first by an appeals court to allow a novel "take-home" COVID-19 lawsuit, which seek damages from a business over allegations of violating safety protocols and setting off a chain of infections beyond the company's premises.
See's, which did not respond to a request for comment, could appeal to California's supreme court.
The See's ruling is only binding in California, but it may offer guidance to judges in other states, legal experts said.
Business groups warned in court papers filed before the See's decision that such a ruling could prompt lawsuits by an infected employee’s family and friends, and anyone infected by that circle of people.
The groups called it a "never-ending chain" of liability.
To counter COVID-19 lawsuits, including take-home cases, business interests have persuaded at least 30 states to adopt laws that make it difficult to bring them, often by requiring plaintiffs to show gross negligence.
California wasn't one of those states.
"The appellate court’s ruling could open up California employers to frivolous COVID-related lawsuits that will further dampen the ability of small businesses in particular to recover," said Kyla Christoffersen Powell, the president of Civil Justice Association of California, a business group.
Hours after the decision, a California construction worker and his wife cited the ruling to a U.S. appeals court in San Francisco. The couple is seeking to revive a similar lawsuit against Victory Woodworks Inc.
There have been at least 23 take-home COVID-19 lawsuits across the United States, which are all in the early stages. Defendants include Amazon.com Inc , Walmart Inc (WMT.N), Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCL.N), Conagra Brands Inc (CAG.N) and Pilgrim's Pride, an affiliate of meat producer JBS SA (JBSS3.SA).
The lawsuits generally allege negligence toward COVID-19 protocols: employees were packed into work vans, symptomatic workers were kept in company dorms or infected people weren't screened before entering a worksite. They seek damages on behalf of employees' children and spouses who wound up on ventilators or even died of the disease.
At least six of the lawsuits have been dismissed including against Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) and six, including two against McDonald's Corp (MCD.N), appear to have resulted in a private settlement, said Stephen Jones, general counsel of Praedicat Inc, a firm that evaluates risks for insurers.
The cases are not limited to employees. Royal Caribbean's Celebrity Cruise line was sued in federal court in Miami for a COVID-19 outbreak on a ship, infecting two passengers who brought the disease home to their children. The two sides are scheduled to begin mediation later this month.
"Until you get a jury verdict, we won't know one way or other if there will be an explosion of cases," said Jones.
The See's ruling helped to resolve an initial question that has hung over take-home COVID-19 cases by finding that employers aren't shielded from lawsuits by workers' compensation. The system provides quick payments without the need to prove fault for workplace injuries and in return it blocks lawsuits.
The California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, said Arturo Ek's death was dependent on his wife as a conduit for the virus. His death was not, as See's had argued, dependent on her disease.
The Ek family must still convince a judge that See's owed a duty to family and acquaintances of employees. Plaintiffs have failed to establish that in cases that were dismissed against Southwest Airlines, an Illinois meat processing company and a Maryland hospital.
To ultimately prevail, plaintiffs must also show that there is a link between the workplace and the case of take-home COVID-19.
"You would have to have a situation where an employee came to and from work and neither the employee nor anyone else in the family/household went anywhere else," said Amberly Morgan, an attorney with Fisher Phillips, which defends employers.
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Subscribe to our daily curated newsletter to receive the latest exclusive Reuters coverage delivered to your inbox.
Reuters, the news and media division of Thomson Reuters, is the world’s largest multimedia news provider, reaching billions of people worldwide every day. Reuters provides business, financial, national and international news to professionals via desktop terminals, the world's media organizations, industry events and directly to consumers.
Build the strongest argument relying on authoritative content, attorney-editor expertise, and industry defining technology.
The most comprehensive solution to manage all your complex and ever-expanding tax and compliance needs.
The industry leader for online information for tax, accounting and finance professionals.
Access unmatched financial data, news and content in a highly-customised workflow experience on desktop, web and mobile.
Browse an unrivalled portfolio of real-time and historical market data and insights from worldwide sources and experts.
Screen for heightened risk individual and entities globally to help uncover hidden risks in business relationships and human networks.
All quotes delayed a minimum of 15 minutes. See here for a complete list of exchanges and delays.
© 2022 Reuters. All rights reserved
Best Indian Destination to Visit
Goa- Best Indian Destination to Visit
Goa is a state in western India. It is known for its beaches, backwaters, Adventure water Sports, waterfalls, and temples. It is a popular tourist destination due to its laid-back atmosphere, cheap hotels, and world-class restaurants. Palolem Beach, Colva Beach, Agonda Beach, Dudhsagar Falls, Anjuna Market, Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Braganza House, Mahadev Temple, Palácio do Deão, Mangeshi Temple, Fontainhas, Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife Sanctuary, and Reis Magos Fort are famous destination in Goa. And Goa is also know for night life. Enjoy Night clubs, party here . So in Goa you can teste a different culture in Goa.
Delhi- Best Indian Destination to Visit
Delhi is the national capital of India and home to 1.17 billion people. It’s a city of contrasts where modernity coexists with ancient history. From the busy streets to the quiet temples, Delhi offers something for everyone. Red Fort, Jama Masjid, Qutub Minar, Lotus Temple, Aksherdham, Zoo, Old Fort, India Gate, Humayun Tomb are some of best Destination to visit. Apart form these You can visit:- Lajpat Nagar, sarojini Nagar, Janpath and Jama Masjid are the best Shopping Places in delhi. And in delhi you can find out best street foods menu in veg and non veg dishes.
Agra- Best Indian Destination to Visit
Agra is a major city of Uttar Pradesh, and a major tourist attraction is located in Agra call as “ The Taj Mahal”. You can Expericne the art of Mughal empire in agra. ALso this is one of the places to visit near delhi within 200 kms. Beyond Taj Mahal You Can Visit These Places That Are Near Or In Agra. These places are Agra Fort, Sikandra, Fatehpur Sikri, Dayal Bagh Temple, Bateshwar Temple, Chini Ka Rauza, Keetham Lake, Mathura, and vrindavan. Mathura and vrindavan are close to agra about 70 Kms far. These are Hindu holy places.
Jaipur- Best Indian Destination to Visit
Jaipur is the capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan. It alludes to the royal dynasty that once ruled the region and built the Old City, also known as the “Pink City” because of its distinctive building colour, in 1727. In the heart of a grand, colonnaded area lies the City Palace complex. Gardens, courtyards and museums still exist today as part of its royal house. Hawa Mahal, Jainivas Garden, City Palace, Amber Palace at Jantar Mantar, Samode, Light and Sound Show, Nahargarh Fort, Jaigarh Fort, Jal Mahal, Galtaji are some of the best places in Jaipur.
Kashmir- Best Indian Destination to Visit
Kashmir Valley is one of the top tourist destinations in India. Apart from its apple orchards, flower gardens and other attractions, Kashmir is famous for its natural beauty. With its distinctive handicrafts and famous Kashmiri shawls, it attracts tourists. The most popular tourist destinations in Jammu and Kashmir are Srinagar, Mughal Gardens, Gulmarg, Pahalgam, Patnitop and Jammu. Many Hindu pilgrims visit Vaishno Devi and Amarnath every year, which has a significant impact on the state’s economy.
Manali- Best Indian Destination to Visit
Manali is a city in Himachal Pradesh, India. It is one of the top ski resorts in India. It is famous for its beautiful surroundings, favorable climate and extensive cultural history. It is a popular travel destination in India and attracts visitors from all over the world.
Manali is a popular honeymoon destination as you can witness snowfall and gorgeous mountain views from late December to early January. This is the ideal time for skiing enthusiasts. Camping, hiking, mountain biking, ziplining, rappelling, paragliding, downhill cycling, jeep safaris, river crossings, angling, and many other activities are available.
Kerala- Best Indian Destination to Visit
The Indian state of Kerala is situated on the moist Malabar Coast. It is famous for its backwaters, network of canals and palm-fringed beaches. The Western Ghats are naturally occurring mountains that support a wide variety of plant life including tea, coffee and spice plantations. Wayanad and other sanctuaries as well as national parks like Eravikulam and Periyar are home to elephants, langur monkeys and tigers. Alleppey, Kochi, Thekkady, Munnar, Thrissur, Kovalam, Wayanad, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Kannur are best destination to visit in Kerala.
Andaman and Nicobar- Best Indian Destination to Visit
The Andaman Islands are an Indian island chain in the Bay of Bengal. And Due to the increasing popularity of beaches and adventure sports like snorkeling and sea walking, tourism to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is on the rise. Long Island, Havelock Island, Little Andaman Island, Diglipur, Parrot Island, Bharatpur Beach, Samudrika Marine Museum, Cellular Jail, Lamiya Bay Beach are some of the best spots to visit in Andaman and Nichobar. Indian tourists do not require a visa to visit the Andaman Islands, but if they wish to visit any tribal area, they require special authorization from the Deputy Commissioner at Port Blair. Foreign nationals require a permit. This clearance is given to foreign nationals coming by air on arrival at Port Blair. This can be a best Indian destination to visit.