Negligence Law Basics and COVID-19 Business Liability Protections

woman grocery shopping with face mask on

Special COVID-19 business liability protections have been the topic of debate recently. Many people are wondering if businesses can be held responsible if they contract the virus at an establishment. At its core, this topic touches on the basic principle of negligence law. Grand Rapids personal injury lawyer, Tom Sinas, recently sat down with Fox 17 to discuss how negligence law works currently, and the proposed changes that would provide COVID-19 business liability protections.

What is Negligence Law?

In order to understand these proposed COVID-19 business liability protections, one must understand the fundamentals of negligence law. In a negligence case, certain criteria must be met in order to bring a claim against another person or entity. These criteria include:

1. Duty – In short, a relationship between the injured party (plaintiff) and the defendant must be established. The duty is then imposed on the defendant to act in a particular way.

2. Reasonableness – The law says that anyone who owes a duty to someone else must act reasonably. Those who fail to act reasonably have committed negligence.

3. Causation – The injured person must prove their injuries were the result of the defendant’s actions or failure to act.

These are the basic laws that exist now regarding negligence, and we must keep them in mind when we discuss how the proposed business liability protections might change things.

Proposed COVID-19 Business Liability Protection

There are different state and federal laws being proposed, but the basic idea behind these business protections is to increase the standard the victim must prove. The new standard would be much higher than a failure to act reasonably.

For example, the plaintiff might have to prove that the defendant intended for them to contract the virus. Or that the defendant acted recklessly or disregarded public safety.

Proving Liability in Coronavirus Cases

Many are wondering how hard it will be to prove a coronavirus-related injury at a public establishment. Tom goes on to explain that businesses taking proper precautions to keep its patrons safe will be able to argue that they are acting reasonably. The causation standard in these types of cases means that the plaintiff will have to prove that specific establishment was at least one of the causes of contracting the virus. This is likely to be a challenge.

Businesses should continue to act in the best interest of their patrons, staff, and the general public to ensure safety on-premises. In addition, consumers should conduct themselves within the guidelines and specifications established to keep them safe and minimize the risk of exposure.

Attorney Bryan Waldman also covered business liability during the coronavirus outbreak on his regular segment with WLNS 6 “Legal Edge.”