EE'S FAMILY CAN PROCEED W/COVID CIVIL CLAIM
Labor Code Section 3602(a) states that work comp benefits under LC 3600(a) are the sole and exclusive remedy for an employee and their dependents against an employer for sustained industrial injuries. As a result, family members cannot usually file civil claims against an employer for wrongful death or loss of consortium that are connected or "derivative" of the worker's injuries.
However, in See's Candies, Inc. v. LA County Superior Court (2021) the Second Court of Appeal has ruled a wrongful death claim against the employer was not pre-empted by the workers' compensation exclusivity rule, in which an employee contracted COVID while working at See's Candies, was cared by her husband at home who then contracted COVID himself and died. The Court held this ruling is consistent with Snyder v. Michael's Stores (1997) in which a minor was allowed to file a claim for injuries sustained as a fetus due to the mother and fetus being exposed to harmful chemicals at work. The See's case now returns to the trial level, with the plaintiff having the burden to prove the elements for a wrongful death claim.
[COMMENT: The Courts in Snyder and See's were aware of the potential explosion of litigation that could occur by allowing exceptions to the derivative injury defense; although note both cases had the same narrow facts of a family member who was physically injured by the exact same cause as the employee.]