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Protecting Your Business from COVID-19 Liability

  • Jan 15, 2021
  • The Harr Law Firm

COVID law book next to gavelSince last spring, the question of liability in spreading COVID-19 has come up many times. Frequently, it arises in the context of what business’s responsibility is to its employees and its patrons if they continue to operate in high-transmission areas of the country. While few legal cases have arisen against businesses for failure to protect employees and patrons from COVID-19, it is still a question that business owners should ask themselves, so that they can take proper steps to protect their companies from liability related to the spread of COVID-19. Here are some things you can do to protect your business.

Follow the Strictest Health Guidelines

One of the most important things you can do to protect your business is to take as many steps as possible to protect both employees and patrons from catching the virus on your premises. Depending on your business type, this might mean closing half of your tables to seat fewer guests, enforcing social distancing inside your store, putting up Plexiglas barriers between employees and patrons, asking some or all of your workers to work from home, and so on.

Make sure you have clear requirements regarding when your employees should stay home. Employees should never be asked to come into work when they have symptoms of COVID-19 or if they know they’ve been exposed to it in another location.

And, of course, require a face mask for anyone who enters your business.

Post Signs about COVID-19

We see disclaimers for virtually everything these days, from indoor playgrounds to flying on an airplane. We know these activities have inherent risks, but the businesses providing these services still need to protect themselves from liability by posting this information for all to see. With COVID-19, any activity that brings you into contact with others is now considered a risk, and as such, your business needs to post clear information about it.

Have signs on your front doors, near your cash registers, and even in employee areas that explain the risks of COVID-19 and outline public health guidelines for preventing its spread. While these signs may not provide total protection, they can help if someone tries to hold you liable for their illness.

Understand Legal Principles

It’s also important that, as a business owner, you understand the legal principals behind COVID-19 liability. While it can vary from state to state, in general, tort law holds a business liable for harm caused to patrons if the company:

  1. Know about a dangerous condition present on the premises and recognizes its risk;
  2. Expects that patrons will not know of or realize the danger, or will fail to protect themselves from it; and
  3. Fails to take reasonable action to protect patrons against the danger.

With COVID-19, businesses are expected to recognize the illness as an obvious hazard in any public setting. This means that it is up to anticipate and plan for how to deal with this hazard in order to protect patrons and employees on the premises.

Stay Up-to-Date on Legislation

The question of business liability in the spread of COVID-19 has been debated in Congress as well. Generally speaking, Republicans want to provide immunity against COVID-19 lawsuits to all private businesses. Democrats, however, view this as a waiver that will allow businesses to put employees and patrons alike at risk without consequence. While this issue has yet to be settled from the legislative side, it’s important that you, as a business owner, stay apprised of the situation so that you know just how much protection the law can provide you, should someone fall ill in your place of business.

Seeking Legal Counsel

If you are unfortunate enough to have a lawsuit brought against your company for damages resulting from a COVID-19 infection, it’s important that you take the lawsuit seriously. While some people may view such lawsuits as superfluous, the legal principles to back these claims do exist, and you need to ensure that you have experienced and skilled legal counsel to support you.

While COVID-19 liability cases will be new to virtually any attorney you work with, those with the right skills can apply tort law and legal precedence from other liability claims to build a strong case to protect your business. The attorneys at The Harr Law Firm have these skills and the knowledge necessary to ensure that your business is properly protected from these liabilities.

So, make sure to follow the steps above to better insulate your business from such a lawsuit. But, if one does arise, contact us immediately, and we’ll provide you with the representation you need.