Forty-eight per cent of Canadians surveyed in a Leger/Association for Canadian Studies poll visited with people outside their households this holiday season, despite pleas from regional health officials. COVID-19 cases are expected to increase as a result, but legal risks may also apply, according to several personal injury lawyers interviewed by CTV News.
During an ordinary holiday season, personal injury lawyers are concerned with a variety of seasonal risks: slip and falls, impaired driving, social host liability, decorations-related injuries, etc. The accelerating coronavirus pandemic opened the door to a new possibility: that hosts could be liable for the virus’s spread.
“The risk if they sue you is that your home insurance many not actually cover a claim like that,” one personal injury lawyer told Your Morning. “If you are doing something that is outside of the law or outside of the public health regulations or if you have an exclusion for communicable diseases, there is a risk that if you are sued, your own insurance policy will not cover you.”
In other words, party hosts this holiday season could be responsible for paying damages and legal costs out of pocket. Combined, these expenses are likely to be even higher than the fines implemented by municipalities to discourage gatherings.
However, suing a party host for the spread of COVID-19 could be challenging. The main barrier, according to one of the personal injury lawyers CTV spoke with, would be proving that the host was aware of the risk.
“The biggest issue is identifying did the host know,” the lawyer said. “So if the host didn’t know that anybody was sick or had symptoms, it’d be a much tougher case. It all comes down to knowledge but generally in our law we don’t sue for contagious diseases.”
However, another lawyer drew parallels between a host who knowingly allowed the spread of COVID-19 and a host who allowed their party guests to drink and drive.
“If an individual is intoxicated by way of alcohol or drugs and, as a result, they injure themselves or others, the social host can be held liable for those injuries sustained if it was found that the intoxication occurred while a guest of the social host,” the lawyer explained.
To our knowledge, there have been no incidents of COVID-19 victims suing party hosts for allowing the virus’s spread. But as case numbers rise in the weeks following the holidays, that might quickly change.
If you or a member of your family suffered an injury this holiday season, contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a member of our experienced legal team.
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