COVID-19 and Wrongful Death Lawsuits
As recently reported by the Tampa Bay Times (Times), the family of a Publix employee who died from COVID-19 is suing his employer over his death. It is asserted in the lawsuit that the Miami Beach Publix where the deceased employee worked in the deli section declined his request to wear a mask to work when the pandemic began. Further, the 70-year-old was already at home sick after contracting COVID when Publix eventually allowed all of its employees to use masks. Sadly, the father of four died alone in April when he succumbed to complications related to the virus as his adult children could only say goodbye to him over a video call.
Many of the findings referenced in the lawsuit are from an April 2020Times report that demonstrated how Publix trailed behind competitors in the amount of time it took to implement safety protections for workers and customers at the beginning of the pandemic. Some of the points made in the lawsuit include:
- By late March when the decedent allegedly contracted the virus from a coworker, other grocery stores such as Kroger had already told employees they were working to secure masks and that they could use their own cloth masks
- In contrast with competitors, Publix prohibited the general use of masks and gloves by employees and allowed employees to use masks only if they had a doctor’s note
It is also alleged in the lawsuit that Publix knew or should have known that the coworker the decedent was exposed to was exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19 before she arrived and/or soon after her arrival for work at the store. However, the store failed to send her home or ensure that she did not come in whatsoever and sadly, the decedent began exhibiting symptoms such as a cough and fever within days of being exposed.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits for COVID-19
While lawsuits like the one outlined above may be a new frontier due to the novel nature of coronavirus, this is not the only example of a wrongful death claim being initiated by the family of a deceased worker. The Times article also referenced the family of an Illinois Walmart worker who filed a wrongful death lawsuit back in April against the worker’s employer after he died from COVID-19 complications. Similarly, a wrongful death lawsuit has been brought against Tyson Foods over an outbreak at one of its Iowa meat-processing plants. As of a few months ago, more than 1,350 coronavirus lawsuits had already been filed since the start of the pandemic. Even more cases are likely to arise in the future as surviving family members realize the extent of their rights and choose to exercise them.
Obtaining workers’ compensation benefits can be a complex process in any situation, but anyone who has lost a loved one due to work-related COVID-19 needs an experienced advocate who is working on their behalf. Regardless of what you are facing, it is helpful to have the assistance of an attorney who has significant experience adapting to unpredictable circumstances.
Turn to Us for the Help You Need
As the Miami workers’ compensation attorneys at Payer & Associates, we are dedicated to helping injured workers who have been seriously injured at their workplace. We are also sympathetic and passionate legal advocates for those who find themselves the surviving family member of someone who died from a work-related injury or disease. You can turn to us whether you need answers to specific questions or want to discuss what your options are altogether. Contact us for a consultation that will be completely free of charge.