Covid-19 and Negligence Law
COVID-19 Liability and the Gross Negligence Standard
If you believe you got COVID-19 from entering a business, government entity, or non-profit, it’s of paramount importance that you obtain our top-of-the-line personal injury representation.
- Duty – the defendant owes the plaintiff a duty of care;
- Breach of Duty – The defendant failed in this duty by failing to act in a reasonable manner under the circumstances;
- Causation – The breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury; and
- Damages – The plaintiff suffered personal and/or property damage.
The second element, breach of duty, where the defendant fails to act reasonably under the circumstances, is the standard negligence rule. In other words, did the defendant – given the circumstances in which they found themselves – act reasonably?
Why is this Important?
The standard negligence rule is important because it guides the outcomes in most personal injury cases in Nevada. It forms a cornerstone of personal injury law and the standard by which cases are litigated or settled.
A Seismic Shift
So last year, the Nevada legislature and Governor, in the midst of the coronavirus raging across the state and country, did the unthinkable. They changed the way negligence is determined in personal injury cases where a person gets COVID-19 from the following:
- Governmental entity
- Non-profit organization
- Employees of the business, governmental entity or non-profit organization.
They did this by changing the standard of proof from the standard negligence to gross negligence. Why is this a big deal? Because if you contracted COVID-19 from a business, governmental entity, or non-profit organization, and they were otherwise following standard safety protocols, proving gross negligence on that entity’s behalf is much more difficult than proving standard negligence.
Gross Negligence versus Standard Negligence
As stated earlier, the standard negligence rule states that the defendant must have acted reasonably under the circumstances. However, with gross negligence, the defendant must have failed to exercise much greater disregard for reasonable behavior under the circumstances. According to Nevada courts:
Gross negligence is substantially and appreciably higher in magnitude and more culpable than negligence. Gross negligence is the equivalent to the failure to exercise even a slight decree of care.
So, what this means, is if you contract COVID-19 from a business, governmental entity, or non-profit organization, it will be much harder to prove their liability. For example, say you walk into a coffee shop and the server is at your table. She takes off her mask while talking to you, and then sneezes and coughs all over you, saying “oh boy, I hope I didn’t get COVID-19 from my boyfriend.” Later that week, you test positive for COVID-19.
Under standard negligence, a jury would likely find that she acted unreasonably under the circumstances. However, under gross negligence, the analysis would go deeper. Maybe she was just joking, or maybe she already tested negative for the virus. In other words, while she likely acted negligently, the defense will raise a lot of questions about whether she acted with gross negligence.
Don’t Hesitate to Call Us
If you visited a business, governmental entity, or non-profit organization, and soon thereafter tested positive for COVID-19, they may be at fault. Don’t let the new law about gross negligence deter you.
We here at LV Personal Injury Lawyers know the nuances and details of negligence law, and can readily represent you – notwithstanding the new gross negligence standards. Contact us today.