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Premises Liability And COVID-19

Is The Business Owner Liable If You Catch COVID On The Premises?

Holiday gatherings are starting to pick up pace along with the global coronavirus pandemic here in Los Angeles. While this festive time would be welcome and perfectly safe in any other year, this year it will likely contribute to the steadily rising L.A. death rates from COVID-19.

Source: Los Angeles Times https://www.latimes.com/projects/california-coronavirus-cases-tracking-outbreak/los-angeles-county/

When public and private gatherings are linked to rising infection rates, an important legal question comes up. If someone catches the coronavirus at a restaurant and dies, is the restaurant liable? The answer is that it depends. Liability lawsuits need to demonstrate that the premises owner was failing their duty to protect people in order to succeed. Here’s how premises liability is currently working in regards to the pandemic.

How Premises Liability Works

A premises liability lawsuit has to prove four elements:

  • That the defendant was in charge of the property;
  • That the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff;
  • That the defendant neglected their duty;
  • And that this neglect caused the harm the plaintiff experienced.

In general, when someone is injured or killed by another person or company’s neglect, then the neglectful person is liable. Proving that there was a duty that was neglected is the most important aspect of these cases, because many people can easily trace their harm to a given event. However, COVID-19 has led to a few additional complications.

Premises Liability During the Pandemic

Because of the extraordinary circumstances around the pandemic, there are many discussions around liability for illness and wrongful death. CA AB-1035 may affect civil liability cases for COVID-19 spreaders if it is passed. Its intended purpose is to protect businesses with fewer than 25 employees from wrongful death and premises liability lawsuits.

However, CA AB-1035 has not yet been passed. Furthermore, even if it is passed, it currently specifies that small businesses are only protected if they are following all current legal guidelines and health mandates for customer health. If the business is not following these rules, then they are not protecting patrons, and any COVID-19 deaths traced to their business can be the basis for a wrongful death lawsuit.

With the steadily rising coronavirus death toll in L.A., this is important information. If you’ve lost a loved one to a COVID infection that can be traced to a shop or restaurant, you deserve to hold that restaurant accountable. Potentially helpful elements for coronavirus premises liability lawsuits include:

  • A previously clean bill of health;
  • Proof that other people at the restaurant came down with COVID-19 at the same time as you;
  • Proof of restaurant staff not wearing masks or social distancing;
  • Proof of restaurant staff allowing customers to violate social distancing mandates;

These elements can help you show that your loved one most likely caught the coronavirus at the restaurant. They also help you demonstrate the restaurant’s negligence in protecting your loved one, as well as their disregard for current health and safety mandates in L.A. If you have lost a loved one to COVID-19 in a store, restaurant or even a private residence, reach out to an experienced wrongful death attorney to discuss your next steps.

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