As COVID-19-related litigation increases, courts are being called upon to interpret the scope of employers’ duties to protect their employees with relation to the virus. On May 10, 2021, a California federal judge dismissed an amended complaint brought by a spouse attempting to hold her husband’s employer liable for her COVID-19 infection. The judge held that California’s worker’s compensation law barred the wife’s claim, noting that the employer’s duty to provide a safe work environment is limited to the employer’s employees. Corby and Robert Kuciemba vs. Victory Woodworks, Inc., No. 3:20-cv-09355-MMC (N.D. Cal. May 10, 2021).
In February 2021, the California District Court granted Victory Woodworks’ motion to dismiss Mrs. Kuciemba’s case, citing that her claims were barred because worker’s compensation was the exclusive remedy for her claims.
Mrs. Kuciemba amended her Complaint, arguing that Victory Woodworks did not exercise ordinary care to prevent exposure to COVID-19, as a result of which, Mr. Kuciemba was exposed to the virus, and brought home the virus on his clothes and other personal items. This legal concept of “take-home exposure” is common in asbestos litigation, and is founded on the idea that employers and premises owners have a duty to exercise ordinary care to prevent exposure to asbestos due to asbestos fibers being carried on workers’ clothing.
Click here to read the full article on the Jackson Lewis California Workplace Law blog.