Connecticut Businesses Fear Covid-19 Lawsuits
Connecticut business owners want state and federal government to implement laws shielding them from lawsuits by customers and employees who catch COVID-19 at their businesses. Business owners’ fears have been heightened as the process of reopening has begun.
Protections Are Already in Place for Hospitals, Nursing Homes and Health Care Professionals
The Governor of Connecticut previously enacted certain protection from civil liability for medical personnel and health care facilities as follows:
- “Any health care professional or health care facility shall be immune from suit for civil liability for any injury or death alleged to have been sustained because the individual’s or health care facility’s acts or omissions undertaken in good faith while providing health care services in support of the State’s COVID-19 response, including but not limited to acts or omissions undertaken because of a lack of resources attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic, that renders the health care professional or health care facility unable to provide the level or manner of care that otherwise would have been required in the absence of the COVID-19 pandemic and which resulted in the damages at issue…Such immunity shall not extend to acts or omissions that constitute a crime, fraud, malice, gross negligence, willful misconduct….”
- “Health care facility means a licensed or state approved hospital, clinic, nursing home….”
This order took effect on March 10, 2020 and is in effect for the duration of the public health emergency.
So Far There is No Protection From Civil Liability for General Businesses
As the reopening begins in Connecticut, so far neither the state nor the federal government have enacted any protection from civil liability for general businesses. Of course, there are strongly competing interests at stake. First, is to protect the public against the pandemic. Second is to encourage businesses to implement the protocols and rules put in place by the state to protect against the unnecessary spread of COVID-19. Third, is to encourage businesses to reopen and get the economy moving again. It’s unclear what, if any, protection following the protocols and rules will provide businesses in the event an individual brings a lawsuit claiming that they were infected with COVID-19 at the business premises.
With the multiple guidelines promulgated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, state economic and health agencies and government orders, businesses have a tall order for compliance.
Business Liability Insurance Usually Excludes Global Pandemics
Most business insurance policies will not cover civil claims by customers alleging that they contracted COVID-19 on their premises.
How governments will ultimately balance the rights of individuals to be protected against unnecessary exposure to COVID-19 against those of businesses attempting to reopen while following the rules while at the same time not shielding businesses which refuse to follow or attempt to evade the required safety standards remains to be seen. As of now, an individual can sue a business establishment if they believe they contracted COVID-19 on the business premises.