The lawyer said allegations should be "tethered to this world."
U.S. District Judge Maxine M. Chesney in San Francisco made a historic ruling to dismiss the first-of-a-kind lawsuit filed by a woman against her husband’s employer for causing a COVID-19 household infection.
The lawsuit was filed by Corby Kuciemba and her husband, Robert Kuciemba, against his employer, Victory Woodworks Inc. The couple is hoping to hold the employer accountable after allegedly violating local and federal virus-safety guidelines by mobing the workers around different sites without safety precautions. According to their lawsuit, this move made by the company caused Robert to unknowingly contract the COVID-19 virus and subsequently spread the illness into his household, resulting in the couple’s extended hospital stays.
The federal judge ruled with a dismiss of the case, claiming that it did jot meet the required threshold to prove the company’s accountability. However, she gave the couple a chance to revise and refile their complaint.
The dismissal of the case of Kuciemba v. Victory Woodworks, 20-cv-09355, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco), came about since most of the claims are precluded by the “exclusive remedy” provisions of Robert’s worker compensation, barring him from directly suing the company.
The judge also said that the lawsuit was “wholly dependent” on the fact that Robert got sick at work, which is a difficult hurdle for all Covid suits.
While there are precedents about holding the company responsible for worker’s sickness due to unsafe workspaces, William “Bill” Bogdan, the company’s defense counsel, said that it is the forst time that a company is being sued for infecting the household with COVID-19.
“This is the first time someone is making the claim that if you have Covid and you live with someone who has a job, you can sue the employer for potentially having given you Covid,” he said.
One of the plaintiff’s lawters, Mark Venardi, likened the case to that of a worker who inadvertently brought asbestos fibers from work and made his wife ill—a precedent in which California law held the employer responsible.
“There is no material difference between the spouse bringing home a virus instead of a fiber,” he claimed.
Martin Zurada, another attorney for the couple, also said that Corby has a standing “independent” claim for having spent weeks on a ventilator.
Both attorneys also say that they can prove that the couple took extreme precautions to avoid exposure.
Bogdan, on the other hand, said that the plaintiffs’ facts were “beyond reason” and that the ruling was justified since it upheld precedent that prohibits claims “against an employer by any outsider allegedly hurt by an employee’s on-the-job injury.”
He also shared that he believes the result would “remain the same” no matter what changes the Kuciembas make on their lawsuit.
As the first-of-its-kind, the decision made by U.S. District Judge Maxine M. Chesney on the Kuciemba case will serve as a barometer for similar suits all over the country.
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