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What is ‘Safe’ in COVID-19 Times?

Coronavirus1

The COVID-19 pandemic has spread across the world. Following the gradual reopening, business owners fear claims by customers and employers of catching the virus in their premises. As of the end of August, infections passed 680,000 and deaths totaled 12,400 in California. As a result, the amount of claims in California has surged both in state and federal courts. Most of these involve claims against insurance companies, or by businesses against banks related to relief loans, rather than wrongful death, or failure to implement safety measures. As of July, California led on COVID-19-related claims of various natures.

Businesses across the country are advocating for a protection against this type of liability. A federal bill is currently in Congress, The Safe to Work Act. The bill seeks to discourage “insubstantial lawsuits” relating to COVID–19.

California has not drafted or passed any laws for purposes of creating obligations to businesses or protecting them from claims related to the pandemic. However, the Department of Industrial Relations has set forth their safety and health recommendations to avoid spread of the virus. In addition to this the Division of Occupational Safety and Health requires the reporting by businesses of any COVID-19 cases as work-related fatalities if the infection occurred at work. It is important to note that through an executive order, California created a presumption that an employee’s COVID-19-related illness arose out of the course of employment if the employee tests positive or is diagnosed within 14 days after a day that the employee performed work at the business’ location.

The State of California also offers guidance on safety measures to all businesses:

  1. Complete a risk assessment and prevention plan
  2. Provide training to workers on how to implement safety measures day to day
  3. Implement individual control measures and screenings
  4. Set up disinfection protocols
  5. Establish physical distancing guidelines
  6. Establish universal face covering requirements

The state also launched recommendations addressed to specific industries.

Claims may not only come from employees but also from customers. The following are the main types of claims to which businesses may be exposed to:

  1. Premise Liability Claims. Are your locations duly sanitized and follow safety protocols?
  2. Negligence Claims. Did the business fail to implement sanity protocols? If so, was this failure the cause for the claimant’s infection?
  3. Misrepresentation Claims. Did the business represent, claimed or advertised having implemented safety protocols but did not?

Contact us Today for Help

If you have any questions about the implementation of these sanitary measures or whether your business may be exposed to COVID-19 related claims from employees or customers, don’t hesitate to reach out to the skilled Los Angeles business litigation lawyers at the Obagi Law Group, P.C. for help.

Resources:

natlawreview.com/article/re-opening-economy-and-getting-back-to-business-business-owners-liability-risk-when

covid19.ca.gov/industry-guidance/

files.covid19.ca.gov/pdf/employer-playbook-for-safe-reopening–en.pdf

gov.ca.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/5.6.20-EO-N-62-20-text.pdf

latimes.com/business/story/2020-08-27/covid-19-lawsuits-california-business-liability

congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/4317/text#:~:text=Be%20it%20enacted%20by%20the,of%20America%20in%20Congress%20assembled%2C&text=%E2%80%94This%20Act%20may%20be%20cited,%E2%80%9CSAFE%20TO%20WORK%20Act%E2%80%9D.

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