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Are Employers Liable For California Covid Deaths?

Posted by Renée Yvonne Gardner | Dec 22, 2021

Can I Sue My Job My Family Member Dies From Covid I Caught At Work?

California Employers Are Liable If A Worker Brings Home Covid, A Family Member Catches It, Then That Family Member Dies From It. 

Yesterday, December 21, 2021, the Court of Appeal said that See's Candies must now face its employee's lawsuit over her husband's Covid-19 death. The worker caught Covid at work, then brought it home to her husband and he caught it. A month later, her husband died from that Covid infection.

This important case means that now, California workers can sue their employers if that worker brings home Covid, that they caught at work, and a family member died from the Covid-19 brought home by a worker.

The See's Candies worker, Mrs. Ek, and her three daughters sued See's Candies last year, claiming that Mrs. Ek herself caught Covid at See's Candies because See's failed to ensure workplace safety by not enforcing social distancing, allowing coughing and sneezing employees at times to be inches from each other on the assembly line, breakroom and restrooms.

See's Candies argued that the worker could only file a workers comp claim, which is an administrative case, and not be allowed to file a lawsuit in court.

When a worker gets injured at work, the worker's “exclusive remedy” against the employer is workers comp. This means they can't file a lawsuit against their employer; they can only file a workers comp claim.

This wrongful death case was not filed because Mrs. Ek caught Covid and got sick. It was filed because Mr. Ek died from the Covid virus that his wife brought home to him.

In this case, the trial court (where the lawsuit was filed) ruled that Mrs. Ek and her three daughters could go forward with their lawsuit. See's appealed, arguing that this other courts had considered similar Covid-related wrongful death cases had rejected them, so the Eks should not have been allowed to proceed with their lawsuit.

The Court of Appeal ruled that Mr. Ek's death was NOT derivative of Mrs. Ek catching Covid on the job. Instead, the court explained that Mr. Ek's death was directly caused by the Covid virus itself, which Mrs. Ek brought home to Mr. Ek.

Relying on a 1997 court opinion called Snyder, the Court of Appeal explained that the “exclusive remedy” rule did not apply because the Eks were not filing a lawsuit for Mrs. Ek's injuries; they were suing because of non-employee Mr. Ek's death.

This is a victory for all California workers who, through no fault of their own, caught Covid at work, and then brought it home to a family member who ended up dying from it.

If your loved one died because someone caught Covid at work and brought it home to them, I want to help you.

Please reach out to me at (408) 214-5555 or send me a message.

Don't talk to your employer, nor their insurance, about this. They all want to protect themselves and are not genuinely concerned about you. Please contact me instead.

I am here to fight for you, so you can focus on processing your grief during this most difficult time. Thank you.

Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash 

About the Author

Renée Yvonne Gardner

Gardner Law's attorney Renée Yvonne Gardner represents auto accident wrongful death cases, serious personal injuries from auto accidents, slip and falls and dog bites, and assists consumers with disputes (small claims court assistance $12,500 or less claims for goods or services).

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For one-on-one and personalized representation in serious personal injury or death cases, or streamlined and efficient small claims court assistance for your consumer issue, I'm here to serve you.