One Big Reason Why Businesses Have Been Canceling Events Because of the Wuhan Coronavirus
Bring on the Personal Injury Lawsuits
Personal Injury and Wrongful Death attorneys represent clients who have been wronged by someone else’s negligence. Often it’s a distracted driver who rear-ends another, but tort law also applies to companies whose corporate policies cause damage.
Let’s take a potential scenario: a company is sending their ten employees to San Francisco for a conference. The company knows the Coronavirus is out there, but they also know it’s unlikely that anyone from their company would catch it, and even if someone does catch it, the survival rate is around 98%. And it’s not like the company would wilfully give their employees the Coronavirus, so if anything happens, it’s just an unfortunate incident.
However, if something does happen, the courts will likely hold the employer responsible. The company would be required to pay the damages for the wrongful death, which are often between $1 million and $10 million per death (or more, depending on the deceased). The judge or jury may find that sending employees into a crowded conference constituted corporate negligence, and therefore, their negligent decisions caused the employee’s death.
The Corporate Decision on Coronavirus
Time will tell whether this virus is a major killer or an overhyped news story. But if it does result in the deaths of thousands of Americans, some judges and juries will say that companies were given all the proper warnings to cancel their events, that they should have known the risk of exposing their employees, and that their actions constitute negligence. What’s worse, a judge or jury could award punitive damages if they consider it “extremely reckless” (a clearly subjective legal term).
If you’re a corporate attorney or work with corporate liability, there’s only one real option: cancel the event for your employees. If you’re wrong, you will have been safer than you needed to be (and no one will fault you for it). But if you don’t cancel, and someone dies, you’ll be paying more than those economic losses. And no one in corporate law wants to be the risk-taker.
If you have any questions about personal injury, wrongful death, or corporate liability, drop them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them promptly.