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Wife Could Not Sue Spouse’s Employer For Her COVID-19 Infection

CATEGORY: Client Update for Public Agencies, Fire Watch, Law Enforcement Briefing Room
CLIENT TYPE: Public Employers, Public Safety
DATE: Jun 08, 2021

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.

Note:

While this is not a published Northern District of CA decision, this case offers guidance for a rapidly emerging area of law.  LCW anticipates that agencies may see COVID-19-related litigation in 2021 and beyond.

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