As people begin to return to public spaces four months after COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are eased, they may notice brightly colored flags in various areas throughout Florida. The reason for these flags is to signify the current phase schedule for the reopening of businesses and other activities amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The State of Florida has recently moved into “Phase Yellow” of the coronavirus reopening schedule. In Phase Yellow, non-essential businesses like retail stores, restaurants, and office buildings are now permitted to operate under limited restrictions. For example, if your workplace recently reopened, employees may be required to wear masks for the duration of the workday.
While the reopening of businesses brings us closer to a semblance of regularity, Phas.se Yellow carries another potential issue. A wave of lawsuits alleging liability for coronavirus infections as Florida has recently hit a tremendous spike of over 9,500 new coronavirus cases in one day, according to the Miami Herald.
Some people have shirked social distancing guidelines while in public, increasing the likelihood of spreading the coronavirus to others in their vicinity if they are infected. This raises the question of whether a person infected with the coronavirus can recover compensation from another person that may have been responsible for their infection.
Personal injury lawsuits require the plaintiff to prove how the defendant’s negligent actions led to their injury. For example, in a car accident, a defendant could be held liable for an accident if they drive through a red light and collide with another vehicle. However, proving how one individual infected another with coronavirus is extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Coronavirus is often spread when an infected person coughs or sneezes and produces respiratory droplets that land in the mouth, eyes, or nose of another person. While the lack of wearing a mask will increase the chances of spreading infected respiratory droplets, this may not be enough for a plaintiff to show negligence in a court of law.
Additionally, COVID-19 can be spread through contact with surfaces. However, this may also be a flimsy argument as hundreds of people could make contact with a surface in public throughout the course of a day. In a busy public setting or a crowded restaurant, it can be nearly impossible to pinpoint how a person infected with COVID-19 spread the illness to others.
Intentional Transmission of COVID-19 and Medical Negligence
Under some circumstances, a plaintiff may have a potential case if they were purposely infected with COVID-19 by another. For instance, if a person was aware of their coronavirus infection and proceeded to spit or cough on another person, this could open them to civil liability. This scenario would be similar to civil claims where a victim could claim an injury after having sexual intercourse with a person who failed to disclose information about the sexually-transmitted disease (STD) they possess.
Note, however, that even personal injury claims based on intentional STD transmission often require a heavy burden of proof. Without extensive evidence showing that a person intended to transmit coronavirus, a potential plaintiff may also have difficulty proving their personal injury lawsuit.
A significant increase in medical malpractice claims may also begin due to the reopening of many public and private establishments. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, hospitals have been overwhelmed with the substantial increase in hospitalizations. This has caused hospitals to adopt many new safety guidelines, like limiting the number of patients in one room or requesting all patients and staff to wear masks while interacting.
Unfortunately, there is still a risk that a patient could become infected at a hospital if safety protocols are not carefully followed, which may lead to a stream of lawsuits arising during the Yellow Phase.
As infections continue to rise, many may turn to a Miami personal injury attorney to determine their ability to seek a lawsuit against another civilian or hospital they believe caused their injuries.
The goal of the reopening schedule is to eventually reach Phase Green, where all businesses, public spaces, concerts, beaches, and other establishments are permitted to operate freely. However, the threat of another wave of COVID-19 is lingering.
As people begin to return to work or their favorite bars and nightclubs, it has become clear that the only way to reach Phase Green is to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Failure to wear protective gear or to keep our distance from each other may result in an eventual return to Phase Red and a renewed lockdown of Florida.
The following few weeks will indicate whether Florida will be able to move forward from the COVID-19 pandemic safely.