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Court Says No to Lawsuit Attempting to Hold Employer Liable for COVID Diagnosis

A California couple tried to hold an employer liable for their exposure to and subsequent diagnosis of COVID. A federal district court dismissed the case.

Robert Kuciemba worked for Victory Woodworks (Victory) at a San Francisco construction site. Victory then transferred some other employees to this site from its Mountain View work site. Kuciemba alleged the company knew employees from the Mountain View site had been exposed to COVID-19 before their transfer. These employees worked closely with Kuciemba, purportedly without adequate safety measures. Not long after the employees transferred, Kuciemba and his wife tested positive for COVID, requiring hospitalization. Kuciemba’s wife needed an extended stay in the hospital. The couple sued Victory for negligence, violation of public nuisance laws, and loss of consortium based on his wife’s hospitalization. They alleged the employer knew or should have known that the newly transferred employees had been exposed to COVID, and Victory failed to adequately protect them.

After the state court transferred the case to a federal district court, the court granted Victory’s motion to dismiss all claims. Kuciemba lacked standing to assert a public nuisance claim. Moreover, the court held that California’s workers’ compensation provisions barred all of Kuciemba’s negligence claims. Kuciemba and his wife’s sole avenue for recovery must be through that statutory process.