The first lawsuit pertaining to the Coronavirus was filed April 6, 2020, in Cook County Circuit Court in Illinois on behalf of a deceased Wal-Mart worker.
While such a lawsuit in Tennessee would probably be limited to a worker’s compensation claim unless it can be shown that the defendants committed “willful and wonton conduct” by not using workplace safety measures that had been recommended by public health officials. This indicates that there will soon be wrongful death cases filed mostly against nursing homes for the elderly.
Since over 2.2 million people live in long-term care settings and the Life Care Center in Seattle, Washington, has already been cited for numerous health and safety violations other wrongful death cases are anticipated.
On February 28, the American Health Care Association which presents 13,500 non-profit and for-profit facilities for seniors and people with disabilities issued updated guidelines in response to the Seattle outbreak. Although those guidelines generally echo existing strategies for stemming the spread of other respiratory viruses, they are also applicable to COVID-19.
Most of these cases will be limited to wrongful death and the primary targets will be retirement centers or nursing homes. The allegations will include: 1.) notice that the premises were infected with the COVID-19 virus; 2.) failure to keep the premises in a safe and healthy environment; and 3.) failure to take preventive measures that the Center for Disease Control and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration had recommended amongst others.
These will not be easy lawsuits and affected family members should carefully select local and/or national counsel based on proven records of handling complicated nursing home cases and not just glitzy radio, television and billboard ads.