Businesses across the country are facing lawsuits connected to COVID-19. According to the Hill, 1,300 lawsuits related to the coronavirus have been filed across the nation. Some of the lawsuits include one filed by a nurse who was fired when she told her company she was going to self-quarantine when she found out she was sick and another reported lawsuit involved a woman who sued a cruise line for failing to warn customers about the risk of COVID-19. Some lawmakers pushing to reopen business have expressed concerns about these lawsuits, claiming that businesses need robust COVID-19 protections. However, other lawmakers and consumer advocates claim that lawsuits serve as an important way to check reckless behavior when a business fails to take steps or cuts corners when handling coronavirus outbreaks.
In light of the risks that COVID-19 poses, particularly when people gather in large groups, some business models are more at risk than others. For example, NPR notes that students returning to the University of New Hampshire have been asked to sign a legal document that effectively releases the university from any liability should an outbreak on campus take place. This kind of document effectively releases the university from practicing responsible behavior, which may include cancelling classes, holding remote classes, or closing campuses. Campuses are facing a tough decision come fall. Many campuses rely on the money they make from students being on campus. At the same time, bringing students back to campus into a crowded dorm situation, in places where they commune, or get food from dining halls, and where classroom settings could be incubators for transmission, increases the risk of the spread of COVID-19, which spreads pretty easily. Asking students to assume these risks so that campuses can re-open and the school can make money doesn’t sound right. Many responsible universities are coming up with hybrid learning models where remote learning will take place, unless in person learning is required. Holding students responsible for decisions that should be made by university officials—who make the big money to make said decisions—sounds only fair. It sounds at least in some cases, that these business lawsuit shields serve to protect the wealthy to act in a reckless manner when it comes to the health and safety of the general public.
Other businesses might also be considering COVID-19 waivers. NPR writes that businesses from hair salons to dentists’ offices are asking their clients to sign COVID-19 waivers. Eells & Tronvold Law Offices, PLC is a personal injury law firm in Iowa City, Iowa that is monitoring this situation closely. We are watching to see what kind of lawsuits develop and are working always to protect the rights of those who have been hurt due to the negligence or neglect of a business or other party.
Can You Sue if You Catch COVID-19 at a Bar?
The fact that some businesses are seeking legal protection from COVID-19 lawsuits is alarming. You can’t just sue a company because you got sick when you went to the bar or restaurant. The only way you can sue is if you can show that the establishment failed to take virus-preventing precautions. This means abiding by mask wearing mandates, asking that customers abide by mask-wearing mandates, and taking steps to keep premises safe and sanitary. These basic provisions sound reasonable. If a business violates basic standards, it seems fair that they should be held accountable.
And in cases where universities have a captive audience like a student body, the responsibility is even higher. If schools open in the fall, students who have enrolled in the school often will have no choice but to attend or risk delaying their graduations. It is only fair that schools choosing to open be held to the highest standards when it comes to preventing the spread of the virus. Permitting lawsuits also places a greater burden on local officials to set clear standards when it comes to virus prevention in their communities. If local officials call for mask-wearing, social distancing, or certain practices to protect the safety of workers, then businesses should be held accountable for their actions and should be required to follow the rules.
At the end of the day, if you patronized a business where the business flagrantly violated local orders—like a bar remaining open when bars were asked to close, or where customers were permitted to not wear masks where masks should have been worn—then you may have the right to seek damages in a lawsuit—at least until legislation offers more guidance. Eells & Tronvold Law Offices, PLC is a personal injury law firm in Iowa City, Iowa that can work with you to help you seek the damages you may deserve under the law. Reach out to our law firm today or connect with USAttorneys.com to get matched with a lawyer at Eells & Tronvold Law Offices, PLC.