Overview

Personal injury lawyers are widely advertising for COVID-19 wrongful death and personal injury claimants. At least one case has already been filed in Illinois by the family of a Walmart employee who died from COVID-19, naming both Walmart and the shopping center owner as defendants.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses and commercial landlords will face wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits alleging coronavirus exposure on the business property. Customers, guests and independent contractors or their representatives will bring premises liability and negligence claims. Employees or their representatives will assert “intentional torts” as an additional remedy to what may be available to them through workers’ compensation, seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Allegations will focus on the business’s response to state and local shelter-in-place orders, claiming that the failure to close, provide appropriate PPE or follow other safety precautions required by applicable federal or state law caused the plaintiff or decedent to contract COVID-19. As shelter-in-place orders expire and businesses reopen, those businesses could also face claims that they reopened too early or did not implement proper precautions to protect their employees, customers and contractors against the potential spread of the coronavirus.

While in some cases, claims are inevitable, there are steps a business can take to avoid them, or at least to position itself to best defend against them. Our Labor & Employment lawyers advise clients on implementing sound employment practices, including procedures to comply with applicable state and federal safety laws, such as OSHA regulations, and other employment laws that apply to employees who may have contracted COVID-19. Violating these laws and regulations can subject businesses to federal and state monetary penalties and increase the chance that a COVID-19-related civil claim may be filed against a business.

If such a claim is filed, our Product Liability Litigation and Labor & Employment lawyers have the requisite experience to defend against it. While COVID-19 is new, our lawyers have for years successfully defended clients against inhalation exposure and respiratory illness claims, claims involving primary pulmonary hypertension and employment intentional tort claims.

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Experience

Examples of our experience defending similar claims include:

Legionella

  • Defending a domestic automotive company against wrongful death claims related to a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak at one of its plants.

Diacetyl

  • Representing as national counsel a food flavoring products manufacturer in hundreds of cases alleging lung injury due to inhalation exposure to food flavors containing diacetyl, 2,3 pentanedione and other ingredients.

Asbestos

  • Serving as counsel for more than 100 shipowners in approximately 40,000 maritime asbestos cases filed on behalf of merchant seamen, longshoremen and other maritime workers alleging pulmonary and other illnesses due to asbestos inhalation.
  • Representing numerous manufacturers in thousands of personal injury asbestos inhalation cases.

Mold

  • Defending property managers and owners, HVAC designers and engineers in numerous class actions and mass actions alleging that respiratory and other illnesses were caused by exposure to mold.

Vinyl Chloride

  • Serving as national counsel for many of the largest chemical companies and the industry trade association in more than 50 cases asserting wrongful death claims based on vinyl chloride gas exposure.

Welding Rod Fumes

  • Defending a major U.S. manufacturer against hundreds of claims alleging injury to welders and welders’ helpers due to exposure to welding rod fumes.

Other Respiratory Exposure Claims

  • Representing clients in more than 1,800 cases alleging harmful inhalation of silica dust.
  • Defending numerous maritime and industrial clients in cases involving airborne benzene exposure.
  • Defending against intentional tort claims based on inhalation exposure to cobalt dust during the manufacture of tungsten carbide tools.
  • Defending numerous clients against claims alleging respiratory illnesses due to overexposure to carbon monoxide, Lyme disease and MRSA.