As some businesses struggle to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, families of workers who died from COVID-19 are faced with the loss of a loved one and the income they provided.
Some families have filed wrongful death lawsuits, arguing companies did not do enough to protect their loved ones from contracting the deadly virus on the job. Walmart, Safeway, and Tyson Foods are just some of the larger companies hit with wrongful death lawsuits after their employees contracted COVID while working on the front lines.
The threat of such lawsuits against companies is not new and neither is the practice of companies placing their employees at risk in the workplace. For decades, millions of U.S. workers were exposed to the deadly mineral asbestos, an ingredient widely used by manufacturers, industrial businesses, and construction companies because of its durability. As those workers later succumbed to cancer caused by the exposure, their families filed lawsuits after learning the deaths were preventable.
Cancer caused by asbestos exposure – mesothelioma – is an entirely preventable disease. Workers exposed to it had no idea of the risk because manufacturers of asbestos-containing products hid the well-documented dangers of asbestos. The fallout continues today, as families lose incomes when workers exposed to asbestos later die from mesothelioma. A lawsuit may help families make up for the loss and hold companies accountable for subjecting workers unnecessarily to a deadly risk. For families of workers who died from mesothelioma, you can learn more about your options.
The COVID-19 pandemic raises similar concerns that companies are unnecessarily exposing workers to deadly risks. While many businesses shut down in the wake of the pandemic and workers stayed home to avoid contracting the virus, others remained open as essential. Those included grocery stores, food processing companies, gas stations, and other businesses deemed critical to the public.
As workers in those businesses began contracting the virus and later dying from it, families argued in wrongful death lawsuits the employers didn’t do enough to protect their employees. Some families are using the tactics learned through asbestos-related wrongful death lawsuits to hold the employers accountable, according to Reuters. One Pennsylvania family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a long-term care facility, arguing operators didn’t do enough to stop the spread of COVID-19 that eventually killed their relatives who worked there.
Some public health experts suggest as much as 10 percent of all COVID-19 cases may be the result of workers exposed to the virus. As more businesses continue to operate during the pandemic, the risks to employees increases.
Lawyers defending businesses are urging them to take precautions to avoid being sued over infections among employees, including ensuring they follow federal CDC guidelines to protect workers. Some lawyers representing companies argue, however, that such lawsuits will be difficult for relatives of workers to win unless they are able to show definitively that the victim contracted the virus at work.