WORK WITH US
Wife Could Not Sue Spouse’s Employer For Her COVID-19 Infection
Robert Kuciemba worked for Victory Woodworks, Inc. (Victory). In the fall of 2020, Kuciemba asymptomatically transmitted COVID-19 to his wife, Corby Kuciemba. Mrs. Kuciemba then sued Victory, to hold Victory liable for her COVID-19 infection. Mrs. Kuciemba alleged she contracted COVID-19 both through direct contact with her husband and through indirect contact with his clothing. She also alleged that Victory had a duty to keep her from this harm.
The district court dismissed the lawsuit. First, the court concluded that California workers’ compensation exclusivity barred Mrs. Kuciemba’s claim that she contracted COVID-19 through direct contact with Mr. Kuciemba. Next, the court determined Mrs. Kuciemba’s “indirect contact” theory was not a plausible claim. Finally, the court reasoned that even if Mrs. Kuciemba’s claims could survive, Victory’s duty was to provide a safe workplace to its employees, and that duty did not extend to nonemployees who, like Mrs. Kuciemba, contracted viral infections away from Victory’s work premises.
While this is an unpublished decision, this case offers guidance for a rapidly emerging area of law. LCW anticipates that employers may see COVID-19-related litigation in 2021 and beyond.