This month, a California federal district court considered the viability of a suit, Corby Kuciemba et al. v. Victory Woodworks Inc., brought by a spouse against her husband's employer, seeking to hold it liable for her COVID-19 infection. Her claim was that her husband was infected with COVID-19 through his workplace, and transmitted the disease to her. She claimed that it was his employer's duty to keep her from being harmed.
The Court dismissed the suit, finding that her claims should be dismissed because an employer's "duty to provide a safe workplace to its employees does not extend to nonemployees who, like [her], contract a viral infection away from those premises." The Court further found that the claim that she had contracted COVID-19 through direct contact with her husband, an employee of the company, was barred by the exclusive remedies of California's workers' compensation statutes – and therefore would need to be addressed through the workers' compensation mechanisms, not as a civil case. Lastly, the Court found that her theory that she contracted COVID-19 because of exposure to her husband's work clothing was just not a plausible claim.
This case illustrates the limits of an employer's civil liability when it comes to non-employees who contract COVID-19 outside of the workplace.
We will continue to monitor major COVID-19 related developments that impact the workplace. If you have any questions about the matters discussed in this issue of Compliance Matters, please call your firm contact at 818-508-3700 or visit us online at www.brgslaw.com.
Richard S. Rosenberg
Katherine A. Hren
Stephanie B. Kantor
Ballard Rosenberg Golper & Savitt, LLP