COVID-19 and Business Liability
As businesses prepare to reopen, virus liability protection is a concern. If someone gets sick at a newly-opened business, is that business liable?
“It would be very difficult for a business to be negligent if they opened any time, but especially after the CDC guidelines are lifted because they are following orders,” said Nick Arnoldy, CEO at Marshfield Insurance. “A business’ general liability policy covers in the event of liable or negligent property damage and liable or negligent bodily harm.”
By definition, negligence includes duty owed, breach of duty, causation, and damages or harm.
“All four of these would need to be proven,” said Arnoldy. “If they open earlier and people get sick, there’s more of a case, but the person would still have to prove all four elements of negligence.”
In laymen’s terms – if someone became sick, they would need to prove that the business owed them reasonable care, that the business failed to act in a reasonable manner to provide that care, that this failure of care led to sickness, and that the sick person suffered injury or loss that is compensable by the business or court.
Typically, general liability insurance will protect a business in the event of a lawsuit and cover legal charges, unless there is a communicable disease or viral exclusion in their policy.
“A lot of policies have these exclusions. It’s not common, but we see it a lot with certain classes of business,” said Arnoldy. “Provided they don’t have a communicable disease or viral exclusion on the policy, I think if you’re opening up after the restrictions, it’s going to be an extremely tough sell for somebody to try to make that business liable.”
For more information, contact Marshfield Insurance at 715-387-4443.
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