A federal court on Thursday asked the California Supreme Court to assess whether the doctrine of derived injury prohibits a civil claim against an employer when a worker receives covid-19 at work and takes the virus home.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco also asked the state Supreme Court to rule on whether California law imposes an obligation on employers of their employees’ households to exercise reasonable care to prevent the spread of covid-19.
California’s Supreme Court does not have to accept the certification or answer the questions under the Federal Court of Appeals.
On April 13, the California Supreme Court denied a request to review a decision of a state appellate court in See̵7;s Candies Inc. v Los Angeles Superior Court et al.who considers that the doctrine of derived injury does not preclude a lawsuit alleging that a company of negligence exposed a worker to covid-19 and caused her husband’s death.
Now the question of whether and how the derived injury doctrine can be applied to claims for damages when family members or others suffer from covid-19 from someone affected by the disease at work can return to the state Supreme Court.
Robert Kuciemba worked for Victory Woodworks Inc. in San Francisco. He and his wife, Corby Kuciemba, claim that the company deliberately transferred infected workers from an infected construction site to the place where Kuciemba worked. He was soon hit by covid-19 which he took home. His wife tested positive for covid-19 in July 2020 and was hospitalized for more than a month.
Kuciembas sued Victory, claiming that the company had violated a local health order. Ms. Kuciemba alleged negligence and Mr. Kuciemba raised a claim for the loss of the consortium.
The Federal District Court of Northern California granted a motion for dismissal Kuciemba v. Victory Woodworks, to find the derived injury doctrine blocked Kuciemba’s claim and that Victory was alternatively not liable to her any obligation.
The Federal Court of Appeal in Thursday’s opinion said that it is appropriate to certify these questions for the state supreme court to answer as there is no governing precedent.
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