Lawyers: Suits against venues spreading virus hard to win

Coronavirus

FOREST HILLS, Mich. (WOOD) — A new cluster of COVID-19 cases related to recent graduation parties in the Forest Hills area has brought up concerns.

On Wednesday, News 8 reported that the Kent County Health Department tied the cluster to gatherings hosted at local venues, including a country club and a restaurant.

That report had some viewers asking, “are the businesses liable for spreading the virus?”

The short answer is “yes,” but it will be a difficult case to win.

“My best advice would be is to stay clear of those situations that may put you at risk of contracting the virus,” attorney Tom Behm said.

Attorneys New 8 spoke to agree that businesses could be found liable for spreading COVID-19 if they meet a certain criteria:

A person must prove they were infected at the event and not somewhere else. Then, you have to prove the venue’s failure to follow the executive order was the cause of your infection. And you have to have the cash to pursue the lawsuit.

“It’s a difficult suit I think to win because of those causation issues, but we’ve been getting that question a lot from our clients in the business community,” said Amy Murphy, an attorney with Miller Johnson.

Lawyers for both business and private individuals say currently, there is nothing stopping business from being sued for spreading COVID-19. However, that could soon change.

A set of bills were introduced last week, regarding coronavirus-related liability protections. It’s unclear if they would create immunity from lawsuits, but they aim at providing more legal protection for businesses.

>>House bills: 6030, 6031, 6032

“Our business certainly doesn’t want to face liability, but they also want to stay afloat, so we are all in this rock and a hard space,” Murphy said. “And it’s pretty much unprecedented.”

So far, News 8 has yet to hear about a lawsuit being filed in our state against any venues where people may have contracted the virus.


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