My Co-Worker Refuses to Get Vaccinated. Can I Sue Them If I Get COVID From Them?
The COVID-19 pandemic suddenly turned every workplace into a potentially dangerous one. Even those working in jobs that presented a low risk of injury or illness before the pandemic now face a very serious risk of contracting COVID-19. While the development of the COVID-19 vaccine should reduce the chances of contracting COVID-19 at work, that is only the case if those you work with get vaccinated.
Currently, no state or federal vaccine mandate requires all workers to get vaccinated. South Carolina lawmakers have indicated a refusal to allow most employers to require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine. For the most part, it is up to an individual employee whether they get vaccinated or not. Of course, an employee’s decision not to get vaccinated, while a personal one, can have tremendous consequences on their co-workers.
This raises the question of whether someone who gets COVID-19 at work from an unvaccinated co-worker can pursue a legal claim against their co-worker. Unfortunately, the answer is probably not. To bring a case against a co-worker based on the transmission of COVID-19, you would need to prove that your co-worker owed you a legal duty, they violated that duty, and their breach of the duty they owed to you resulted in your COVID diagnosis. However, proving each of these elements could pose challenges.
For example, while co-workers owe a duty of care to each other, courts are not likely to find that co-workers owe a duty to one another to get vaccinated. This is especially the case in South Carolina, where there is broad opposition to a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Similarly, even if a court found that there was a duty of care to get vaccinated, an employee’s failure to get vaccinated may not constitute a breach of that duty. This is because there are legitimate reasons why an employee may choose not to get vaccinated, such as for religious or health-related reasons.
Finally, proving that your case of COVID-19 was caused by a fellow employee’s failure to get vaccinated will prove quite difficult for a few reasons. First, the nature of COVID-19 is that you could have been exposed to the virus anywhere, including outside your job. Second, there is some evidence that, while the vaccine reduces the symptoms of COVID-19, it does not prevent a person from carrying the virus. Thus, even if a co-worker was vaccinated, they could, in theory, still pass the virus off to you.
While you probably cannot sue a co-worker for giving you COVID, you may be able to pursue workers’ compensation benefits from your employer. However, this too is challenging, and these cases are very fact-specific. If you believe you contracted COVID-19 at the workplace, reach out to a South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss your options.
Did You Get COVID-19 While at Work?
While any South Carolina worker’s compensation case can be complex, those involving COVID-19 diagnoses are especially so. The attorneys at the Steinberg Law Firm, LLP, are here to help you and your family through this difficult time. We represent South Carolina employees who have contracted COVID-19 while on the job. Even if you are unsure where you contracted the virus, we can help. Our knowledgeable team of South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers will attentively listen to you and offer our honest advice. To learn more, call 843-720-2800 to schedule a free consultation today.