A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed by the family of a deceased Walmart employee in Evergreen Park, Illinois (near Chicago), after the employee died due to coronavirus-related complications on March 25, 2020.
According to the article, the employee allegedly told store managers that he was showing symptoms and was then ignored by store management.
Another employee from the same store is said to have died from coronavirus-related complications on March 29, 2020.
This brings to light a subject that is likely on the minds of many essential employees and their families as they continue to head to work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Is an employer responsible for the spread of coronavirus and resulting death or hospitalization of their employees?
Dennis VanDerGinst, CEO of VanDerGinst Law, P.C., discusses whether or not the family has a right to sue Walmart, and whether or not the lawsuit is likely to proceed.
The Right To Sue
The lawsuit against Walmart alleges that Walmart did not clean its stores well-enough for employee safety and failed to mention to employees that their coworkers were showing symptoms of the novel coronavirus.
But does that give the family a right to sue the company?
“Any person can sue anyone for anything. That doesn’t mean that the cause of action is ultimately viable. This case may or may not be viable,” says VanDerGinst.
While the family may have the right to sue the company, and this employee died from coronavirus-related complications, that doesn’t mean that they necessarily have a case against Walmart.
The Case For Wrongful Death
The fact that this is a wrongful death lawsuit means the family is alleging that Walmart was directly responsible for a wrongful act or neglect that resulted in the death of their employee.
In the case of wrongful death lawsuits we must prove:
- The responsible person/entity has a duty to exercise reasonable caution;
- That party breached this legal duty through careless or reckless actions;
- The breach of duty led to the accident in which your loved one was killed; and,
- You suffered losses as a result of the victim’s death.
In the case of a coronavirus-related death, the Plaintiffs (in this case the family of the Walmart employee) will need to be able to prove that Walmart hadn’t taken precautions, and that the disease was contracted at that location.
Considerations For a Wrongful Death at Work Case
Mr. VanDerGinst had further considerations for this case, saying, “In most states, including Illinois and Iowa, an employee has very limited situations in which they can file a negligence claim directly against an employer. Most of the time the only remedy available for a ‘work-related’ injury is through workers’ compensation. That rule extends to the estate of a deceased employee.”
In Illinois, where this case is being filed, workers’ compensation is a requirement by all businesses with one or more employees to protect workers who suffer job-related medical conditions.
This may negate Walmart from being directly responsible for providing compensation for the claim, since they pay for workers’ compensation insurance to cover these types of claims.
VanDerGinst continues, “While I haven’t seen the actual complaint that was filed in this case against Walmart I must assume that the Plaintiff (the estate) has alleged intentional actions which might allow their lawsuit to proceed. Otherwise, they may be limited to workers’ compensation remedies, which do not compensate for damages such as pain and suffering.”
The novelty of the COVID-19 virus has resulted in uncertainty surrounding cases like these.
As with many things during this pandemic, we will have to wait and see how things pan out.
Do you have additional questions about coronavirus in the workplace?
If you believe you have contracted coronavirus due to an unsafe workplace, call VanDerGinst Law.
We have over 30 years of experience in personal injury law.
Our knowledgeable team of attorneys will help guide you through this scary time, and get you back on your feet.
The information contained on this website is presented by VanDerGinst Law P.C. It is not intended nor should it be construed as professional legal advice. The information is general in nature about the Firm, the scope of services we offer, and our community outreach, it is not legal advice. Please contact us by phone, email, mail, or via this website for inquiries. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please contact a personal injury attorney for a consultation regarding your situation. This website is not intended to solicit clients outside the State of Iowa and/or the State of Illinois.