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A Second Pandemic: Personal Injury Lawsuits and COVID-19

With the United States slowly easing into the first few stages of reopening, some business owners and politicians have expressed concerns that this progress may be thwarted by a “new pandemic”, personal injury lawsuits. In light of COVID-19 recovery, some are petitioning for protections that will shield businesses from liability concerns regarding coronavirus infection risks stemming from reopening. Currently, it’s unclear whether Congress will decide in favor of protecting business owners from such lawsuits.

Calls for New Legislation

A medical professional securing their face mask

In New York, State Legislature has approved liability protections for healthcare providers in anticipation of a wave of lawsuits related to COVID-19 fatalities. Legal teams representing small businesses nationwide are requesting Congress to extend these protections to employers who fear that they may fall victim to frivolous lawsuits claiming employees or customers contracted the virus at their establishments. However, not everyone is on board with establishing this liability shield, as it could lead to potential dangers for the public due to the negligence of organizations caused by failure to adhere to duties of care. Edward Steinberg, the president-elect of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, voiced his opposition to this legislation by stating that, “Big businesses aiming to shirk responsibility and shift costs onto workers will make it harder to get Western New York up and running.”

Risks to Customers and Employees

One Buffalo trial lawyer, Florina Altshiler, argued that it would be difficult to hold up a claim that someone contracted the virus from a specific business location they visited, versus an encounter with a family member, friend, or another business. Despite this claim, without proper liability reform customers and employees alike may be at risk upon entering an establishment that fails to adhere to guidelines issued by the local, state, and federal government. This effect could also lead to an uptick in illness. Workers’ rights advocates are also arguing for protections—total immunity from liability would relieve businesses of responsibility and the costs associated with fighting personal injury lawsuits, but leave employees and patrons vulnerable to infection without the option to seek workers’ compensation damages in court.

As a team of compassionate lawyers with a demonstrated history of successfully representing clients in personal injury cases involving negligence, Leav & Steinberg LLP is committed to helping protect the rights of workers and the public. We’re ready and willing to meet you at either of our offices or a location that’s most convenient for you. Contact us for a free consultation and call 212-766-5222 today.