Is Your Business at Risk for Covid-19 Claims?
What happens if you contract Covid-19 at work, at the grocery store, at a hospital, or at your favorite restaurant? Do you have a claim? The answer in New Mexico is maybe. Unlike some states, New Mexico has not adopted any laws limiting claims related to Covid-19 exposure or illness. That means that if you are negligently exposed to Covid-19, get sick, and suffer damages, you may be able to sue the person or business that exposed you. This could change if the state or federal legislators enact new limits on these claims.
These cases may be hard to prove and will depend on the specific facts of each situation. One of the easiest claims to prove would involve a person who became ill after they strictly followed a stay at home routine. Imagine a person had not left their home, or had only infrequent distanced interactions with others for a few weeks. Their first social outing is a family wedding held at a local restaurant. If the restaurant is not following guidelines for the use of either personal protective equipment (PPE) or frequent sanitizing protocols. If there is an outbreak of Covid-19 among the waitstaff that is also not handled well, the restaurant may face a tough claim if their patrons become ill at the wedding. This would be particularly true if the patrons could prove that they had not been in contact with any other source of infection prior to the wedding.
As you can see from this example, these cases are very fact-specific and will rely on strong investigation by the person’s legal team. Any break in what we call the chain of causation, which is much like a row of falling dominoes where one missing domino can break the chain, could sink the person’s case.
While restaurants are getting a lot of focus because people cannot eat or drink while using masks, they are not the only businesses at risk for Covid-19 claims. Hospitals, nursing homes, personal care businesses, and any business that interacts with the public also risk claims if their patrons become ill due to negligent business practices. As another example, if a patient was admitted to a hospital for routine surgery and had been tested as Covid-19 negative, and then was placed in the same area as Covid-19 positive patients or was otherwise exposed due to negligent hospital practices, the patient may have a claim if they became ill. Again, this would depend on what other sources of exposure the patient had, whether the hospital was actually negligent or the disease was spread despite reasonable precautions, and so forth. Even if a person is positive for Covid-19 due to the negligence of someone else, they would need to suffer more than just minor symptoms to maintain a lawsuit or recover damages.
The bottom line is that businesses are held to a standard of reasonable care. If they don’t follow reasonable and safe practices and someone is infected and becomes very ill, New Mexico law allows an injured person to recover for their damages. This is only one way that businesses may be held accountable if they chose to ignore safety guidelines. If you have been injured by someone else’s negligent safety practices, you may have a claim and it is important to hire a legal team that will thoroughly investigate your claim and take action. If you are a small business owner who is not sure how to operate safely, you should work with a legal team to discuss your options and risk mitigation strategies. Buchanan Law is here to help, 505-900-3559.