Whether it is a bank, sporting goods store, or restaurant, Michigan businesses face increased liability claims during the COVID-19 pandemic from customers who claim to have been exposed during their time there. Concerns about liability have additionally raised the questions of whether businesses have an increased duty of care to customers as well as what type of liability businesses face if a customer alleges they were exposed to COVID-19 while on the premises.
Burgeoning Coronavirus Lawsuits
In May 2020, lawsuits were filed against Princess Cruise lines alleging that the company was grossly negligent in exposing passengers to COVID-19. The lawsuit claims that the cruise ship was allowed to go to sea despite the knowledge that previous ship passengers had the disease. The Princess Cruise lawsuit is only one COVID-19 lawsuit of many, and the numbers keep going up.
To minimize the risk of ending up in a lawsuit, some companies have resorted to what once seemed like drastic measures. For example, there have been several news stories of companies throwing away tens of thousands of dollars in food to avoid potential infection risks.
What Duty Business Owners Have to Customers
In Michigan, business owners have a duty to use reasonable care to protect customers from an unreasonable risk of harm created by dangerous conditions. Business owners must take reasonable care to provide customers with a safe environment. This means that business owners must discover and eliminate dangerous conditions on their premises and avoid creating conditions that could make things unsafe.
In Michigan, a customer’s contributory negligence is not a complete bar to recovery. Given the extensive recommendations about staying indoors and maintaining a six feet distance from others, there is at least some degree of culpability if a person claims to have contracted COVID-19 while patronizing a business in person.
The Role of CDC and MIOSHA Guidelines
While there is no specific requirement that business owners must follow guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to avoid third-party liability, it might be a good idea to follow these guidelines to keep customers as safe as possible.
Unlike the CDC, the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration (MIOSHA) has issued workplace guidelines for business owners that include requirements that must be followed. For example, employers must create a written exposure control plan that includes exposure determination and addresses what measures will be taken to prevent worker exposure to COVID-19.
Steps Businesses can Take
Some of the helpful strategies business owners can take to mitigate the risk of coronavirus exposure include:
- Discouraging handshaking
- Informing workers about what they can do to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spread
- Practicing proper respiratory hygiene
- Routine cleaning and disinfecting
- Separating sick employees
- Using sufficient building ventilation
Speak With a Michigan Corporate Law Attorney Today
If you have questions or concerns about how your business can better mitigate liability during the COVID-19 pandemic, it can help to speak with a knowledgeable corporate law attorney. Contact Resnick Law, PC today to schedule a free case evaluation.