The California federal district court has weighed in regarding the extent of employer liability for COVID-19 related illnesses. In Kuciemba et al. v. Victory Woodworks Inc., a spouse (Corby Kuciemba) of an employee (Robert Kuciemba) brought a civil lawsuit against Robert’s employer. The lawsuit sought to hold Robert’s employer liable when Robert contracted COVID-19 in the workplace and, thereafter, transmitted the disease to Corby.
The district court dismissed the lawsuit pursuant to the defendant’s motion. The court ruled that the employer’s “duty to provide a safe workplace to its employees does not extend to nonemployees who, like [Corby], contract a viral infection away from those premises.” Additionally, the claims that the Corby contract COVID-19 “through direct contact with” Robert were barred by the “exclusive remedy provisions of California’s workers’ compensation statute and, thus, are subject to dismissal.”
This case is good news for employers worried about the extent to which they might be civilly liable for COVID-19 related issues. Employers, however, should remain vigilant, as the legal battles surrounding COVID-19 continue.
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Matthew Wallin is a senior associate in the Los Angeles office where he practices labor and employment law. He has extensive experience defending private business and public entities in litigation and advising clients on labor compliance issues.
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