Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Personal Injury Claim By Family Claiming Worker Died From COVID-19 Virus Contracted At Work Dismissed Under Worker's Compensation Act

In the case of Barker v. Tyson Foods, Inc., No. 21-223 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 6, 2021 Diamond, J.), the court ruled that a claim that an employer willfully or wantonly exposed its employees to the COVID-19 virus was insufficient to overcome the exclusivity provisions of the Worker’s Compensation Act.  As such, the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss was granted.

In this matter, the Plaintiff’s decedent passed away allegedly due to complications from the COVID-19 virus.

The Plaintiff alleged that the decedent’s employer caused the decedent’s wrongful death by failing to implement any safety measures after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Plaintiff also asserted that the Defendant allegedly maintained a work-while-sick policy.

The federal court granted the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss after finding, in part, that the Plaintiff’s claims were barred by the Pennsylvania Worker’s Compensation Act.

The court more specifically held that willful or wanton disregard for employee safety was insufficient to overcome the exclusivity provisions of the Act.

Instead, the court noted that an employee could fall outside of the Worker’s Compensation Act only upon a showing that an employer’s fraudulent misrepresentation caused an aggravation of a pre-existing injury. In this case, the court found that the Plaintiff’s allegations did not amount to any showing that any alleged wrongful conduct on the part of the employer caused any aggravation of any pre-existing conditions of the Plaintiff’s decedent.

Anyone wishing to review a copy of this decision may click this LINK.

Source: “Digest of Recent Opinions.” Pennsylvania Law Weekly (Dec. 21, 2021).

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