Can We Sue Over Coronavirus Infection or Death?

Lately that’s been the question people are asking us. Can they sue if they or a loved one become infected or die from the coronavirus (also named COVID 19 by the medical community)? It’s a legitimate question, yet up until a month ago very few people even knew to ask it … and yet now it’s the question for which an answer is being demanded.

As of March 4, 2020 there were 130 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, with less than 10% of those infected dying. Most of those deaths occurred at a nursing home in Seattle. And of those 130 confirmed roughly 1/3 of them became infected while passengers on the cruise ship Diamond Princess. Unfortunately for the passengers, once a few were infected the Japanese government initiated quarantine procedures which prevented the passengers from disembarking. And those few who were infected spread the virus to about 45 others.

In both situations noted above you have to look at whether “reasonable measures” were taken to prevent exposure. And examine what if any protocols were put in place to handle such a virus (or the contingency of being exposed to a new previously undocumented illness). But what would the law consider to be reasonable measures? And, what protocols should a facility (like a nursing home or hospital) have in place to handle an unknown infectious disease?

Was the Japanese government right or wrong to issue a quarantine? Though governing powers have the authority to quarantine ships, trains, planes, buses and even automobiles carrying any amount of people into or out of their country if they think they have a disease of any sort, was it reasonable to issue a quarantine? Did the quarantine do more harm than good? Did it unreasonably put healthy people at risk? The answers will depend on medical experts reviewing the decision making behind the quarantine orders. … Of course, just as an aside, in many situations governments enjoy immunity from being sued for mistakes of this type if indeed a mistake was made (and sometime foreign governments are very difficult to sue even if a suit is permitted), and this may end up being a situation where even if mistakes were made, a legal remedy remains out of reach.

Typically victims who have died have had weakened immune systems caused by old age or pre-existing conditions that have prevented their immune systems from successfully fighting the virus. Transmission likely came from one person, say a visitor, a family member or an employee who had contracted COVID 19 entering the nursing home. Presumably the carrier of the virus infected those they came in near proximity to. From there the virus, getting in the door so to speak, had the ability to spread from person to person. The law likely would be hard pressed to hold the first couple of medical facilities legally responsible for a patient contracting the illness. But, now that protocols have been established, if those protocols aren’t followed (in other words the facility does not use reasonable care), then facilities here on out ignoring containment requirements might very well end up on the wrong side of a lawsuit.

The question shouldn’t be if you can sue over coronavirus infection or death, but if a law firm will agree to take your case. Many have not. And although we have taken cases involving MRSA infections (hospital acquired infection) cases, we would have to evaluate your case before determining if such a course of action was deemed appropriate. To determine if your case has merit call (219)736-9700 today.

Keep in mind MRSA is a well recognized risk, and there are well recognized routines providers must follow to prevent such infection. A provider breaches the standard practice rule, infection happens, lawsuit follows. We all know for example, if you have a surgery the surgical equipment should be sterile, and if it isn’t a standard of care (so well recognized that even non medical people understand it) has been violated. With COVID 19.there is only now beginning to be developed a methodology to prevent infection. But, interestingly, the CDC tells healthcare personnel that they can prevent MRSA infections if they:
* Clean their hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before and after caring for every patient.
* Carefully clean hospital rooms and medical equipment.
* Use Contact Precautions when caring for patients with MRSA (colonized, or carrying, and infected). Contact Precautions mean:
– Whenever possible, patients with MRSA will have a single room or will share a room only with someone else who also has MRSA.
– Healthcare providers will put on gloves and wear a gown over their clothing while taking care of patients with MRSA.
– Visitors might also be asked to wear a gown and gloves.
– When leaving the room, healthcare providers and visitors remove their gown and gloves and clean their hands.
-Patients are asked to stay in their hospital rooms as much as possible.

Sound familiar to what we are being told about the coronavirus?

To help prevent the coronavirus from spreading we’ve been told to please wash your hands with soap and water for at least twenty seconds, avoid touching your face with your hands, and if you are currently experiencing flu like symptoms avoid going to places where you might come in contact with others and seek medical treatment if symptoms persist. Moreover, we’ve been told to check the CDC website frequently for precaution updates.

The Law Offices of David W. Holub is a personal injury law firm located in Merrillville, Indiana, focused on providing efficient and effective client-centered representation. Our mission is to provide top quality legal representation, which includes an uncompromising pursuit of our client’s legal interests, while being accessible and attentive to our clients during times of personal challenge.

The firm concentrates in personal injury cases of all types, medical malpractice, and wrongful death litigation. We work tirelessly to serve each client aggressively and with empathy, to communicate regularly and clearly, and to obtain prompt and favorable results, while adhering to the highest standards of excellence and integrity. Our team considers it a high honor to be called upon to serve our clients whom we often come to regard as our friends.

*If you would like to learn more about personal injury law, we encourage you to listen to our Personal Injury Primer Podcast where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to personal injury law. And read “Fighting For Truth: A Trial Lawyer’s Insight Into What It Takes To Win” an entertaining and enlightening book pulling readers into the courtroom giving them a glimpse of the legal process and what it takes to win at trial.