The wife of an employee sued her husband’s employer in Federal Court claiming that the employer was responsible for her husband bringing COVID-19 home to her from the workplace. The wife made a very interesting argument in attempting to impose this liability. She analogized COVID-19 exposure in the workplace to asbestos exposure in the workplace. The wife “… characterized the disease as similar to asbestos-caused mesothelioma, for which certain non-employee household members have successfully prosecuted similar claims.” She argued that “… it is reasonably foreseeable that workers will act as vectors carrying asbestos from the jobsite to the household, “employers have a duty of care to prevent this means of transmission.” In so arguing, Mrs. Kuciemba claimed she suffered a direct injury and thus general negligence and “public policy concerns” should apply.”
The Court dismissed her claims stating that they were preempted by “the exclusive remedy provisions of the California workers’ compensation statutes.” It would certainly be an interesting turn of events if the Court had allowed this suit to proceed. If that happened, an employee would be unable to bring a civil suit but their family members would be able to bring such a suit. This would definitely be a back door way around the protections of workers’ compensation and would subject employers to untold possible liability.
The case was brought in Federal Court as the employee had been transferred form a California work site to one in Nevada.
“plaintiffs are asking the employer to do what the global public health system and pharmaceutical industry failed to do: keep COVID-19 from invading the home.”