Covid-19 Possible Liability
POSSIBLE LIABILITY WITH VIRUSES AND CHEMICALS
In discussing the liability of any individual, business, school, place of worship or any structure, the established standard is for any “invitee” that you must provide a safe environment. A reasonably foreseeable risk and what a reasonably prudent person would do and an industry standard of care have all been used to determine liability. If an owner of a structure simply wipes off doorknobs and tabletops in my opinion they have not done anything to keep their invitees safe. It is reasonably foreseeable that a virus does or could exist under the table or above six feet or in any area of the structure. COVID-19 is air born. You must disinfect the entire air area. Having the doorknob wiped and an untrained employee spray a table is doing basically nothing. If you invite people, children, wives, brothers and sisters into your environment and knowingly do not provide a safe place, you could be liable and should be.
If you have a company spraying with a handheld wand and he is wearing a simple clothe mask, how can that chemical be strong enough to kill a pathogen?
There are methods to disinfect a structure and many are known to exist. Simply not using them because of cost is not doing everything you could to keep your invitees safe.
Further, just keeping some tables six feet apart and requiring masks be worn at certain times is not going to keep your invitees safe and the owners are aware of this. Many people are still getting sick.
Opening your building to guest/invitees after you know an employee or other person has been there while infected without doing everything you can to disinfect the building may be gross negligence. It is not certain as of now what the standard of care will be in the upcoming COVID 19 cases, but it is my suggestion that you do the best you can to keep all people who enter your building safe. The future of your liability is still uncertain but as a responsible person you have a duty of care.
CHEMICAL SPRAY BY HUMAN EMPLOYEE
There is an obvious liability to a company exposing their workforce to harmful chemicals. If a “disinfection company” allows their employee to enter and remain inside a structure while spraying and or wiping a chemical strong enough to kill a pathogen/virus it is reasonably foreseeable that this employee can contract the virus itself and be exposed to all kinds of health issues related to the chemical they are spraying or exposed to. There are hundreds of such cases which clearly establish liability for such foreseeable risk and exposure. More importantly, the established cases depict horrific health problems for the employee.
In addition, the liability may pass to the owner of the structure that allowed such negligence in their building. There is a duty of care to investigate what an owner allows to happen in their structure.
Further, a human in your structure causes all kinds of other liability issues. The employee could fall or be injured by any alleged negligence or unsafe object including the wet spray the employee is spraying. There could be theft issues or a host of other liability issues that occur with a human entering your structure.
ALLOWING OR REQUIRING AN EMPLOYEE TO SPRAY
Even the self-spray many employers are requiring their employees to use can cause huge liability. For instance, a waiter wearing a simple clothe mask spraying each of his tables between seatings can be exposed to a large quantity of chemical. This waiter has no chemical training and this exposure can lead directly to lawsuits not to mention simply spraying a table does not disinfect the area. Another example would be the ongoing cases with weed killing sprays.
LAWSUITS AS OF NOW
Many attorneys that I interviewed have been reluctant to file a case related to COVID-19 because of the difficulty of determining when and where the virus was contracted. However, that is not always the situation. Many times tracers can determine at what location people were exposed. Sometimes it is obvious. In fact, cases against elder care facilities are going forward.
Also, the President has hinted that he may waive or not allow cases to be filed in regard to COVID 19.
I realize COVID-19 has made life difficult for many including me, but you do have a responsibility to keep your invitees safe. Do not ignore the risks simply because of the cost of making your structure safer for your guests, patients, students and all people. We still do not know how bad the affects of COVID-19 exposure will be in the future.