California employers have no duty of care under state law to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to employees’ household members, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday.
While working for Sparks, Nev.-based Victory Woodworks Inc., Robert Kuciemba became infected with covid and transmitted it to his wife, who was hospitalized for several weeks and at one point kept alive on a ventilator, according to the ruling by the seven -member California Supreme Court i Corby Kuciemba et al. v. Victory Woodworks Inc.
The couple sued Victory for negligence, premises liability and public nuisance. The California Supreme Court was eventually asked to rule on the case by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.
Ruling for the employer, the decision said: “The factors of foreseeability and the political factor of moral culpability lean heavily in favor of finding a duty of care.”;
But “the significant and unforeseeable burden that recognition of a duty of care would place on California businesses, the court system, and society at large, weighs in favor of an exception to the general rule” in the state’s civil code.
The ruling said courts in Maryland, Wisconsin and Illinois have issued similar orders.
Victory Woodworks attorney William A. Bogdan, a partner with Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP in San Francisco, said, “I’m obviously pleased because this will eliminate this requirement not only for my client, but for all businesses in California.”
The court also ruled that California labor law does not bar a spouse’s negligence claim against the employer if an employee brings home covid. But Mr Bogdan said the duty of care decision precluded pursuing this issue.
An attorney for the plaintiffs did not respond to a request for comment.