Judge dismisses COVID-19 lawsuit filed by worker’s wife
A federal judge in California has dismissed the claims of a construction worker’s wife who said she contracted COVID-19 after her husband was exposed to the virus at work, according to constructiondive.com.
Corby Kuciemba filed a lawsuit against her husband’s employer, Victory Woodworks, Sparks, Nev., alleging the company knew another employee had tested positive for COVID-19 but did not require the worker to quarantine and instead assigned him or her to work with Kuciemba’s husband on a San Francisco job site.
Kuciemba sought damages exceeding $75,000 for medical expenses for at least one hospital stay, lost wages, lost earning capacity, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and emotional distress.
U.S. District Judge Maxine Chesney denied Kuciemba’s claims, ruling the allegation she contracted COVID-19 through direct contact with her husband was barred by California workers’ compensation law; the claim that she was exposed “indirectly through fomites such as [her husband’s] clothing” was not plausible; and that Victory Woodworks’ “duty to provide a safe workplace to its employees does not extend to nonemployees who, like Corby Kuciemba, contract a viral infection away from those premises.”
According to an analysis of the case by attorneys Eric Hobbs and J. Davis Jenkins of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, Greenville, S.C., barring a successful appeal, the decision could be used as an example for other courts handling similar lawsuits or put in the position of deciding liability in states with similar workers’ compensation laws.
New York City inspectors halted work on 322 job sites in June
During June, New York City inspectors shut down 322 buildings because of hazardous conditions. The affected sites include full and partial stop work orders.
The New York City Department of Buildings also issued more than 1,129 violations for safety and noncompliance issues at those sites. In June, inspectors visited more than 2,100 of the city’s larger and more complex building construction sites.
Following a series of construction worker deaths earlier this year, Department of Buildings Commissioner Melanie E. La Rocca mobilized teams of enforcement inspectors in early June to perform “zero-tolerance” safety sweeps.
Additionally, the Department of Buildings released a report June 29 that showed declines in injuries and deaths on New York City’s construction sites in 2019 and 2020; 595 injuries and 12 deaths were reported in 2019 compared with 502 injuries and eight deaths in 2020. The report provides an analysis of major building construction incidents during the past two years that led to fatal or near-fatal outcomes, detailing factors that led to these incidents.
COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy raises issues for employers
Construction workers were among some of the first groups to qualify for COVID-19 vaccinations in most states but have been hesitant to get the shots, according to constructiondive.com. As a result, construction employers that want workers to be vaccinated face challenges.
Vaccination hesitancy increasingly is a concern for public health officials, such as University of Pittsburgh Associate Professor of Epidemiology Wendy C. King, who sees such hesitancy as a key barrier to ending the COVID-19 pandemic. King and a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, are trying to understand what is causing the hesitation so they can help the health care community address workers’ concerns.
Workers are telling pollsters they do not trust the vaccine, and misinformation continues to persist online. Amelia Jamison, a faculty research assistant at the Maryland Center for Health Equity, says people mistakenly believe the process of getting the vaccines to market was accelerated in a way that makes the vaccines unsafe. In addition, about one-third of unvaccinated adults are concerned they might have to pay for the shots, which are free to everyone. Some people are hesitant because they or someone close to them had mild cases of COVID-19 and recovered.
Most U.S. companies are encouraging vaccinations because they believe they are crucial to economic recovery, but as employers attempt to establish vaccination policies, they are struggling with all these factors, as well as confusing messaging from the government regarding vaccine incentives and recording adverse reactions to the vaccine.