Thursday, July 28, 2022

Personal Injury Claim Based on COVID-19 Exposure Allowed to Proceed

In the case of Stiver v. Senior Health Care Solutions, LLC, No. 21-CV-842 (C.P. Lacka. Co. July 8, 2022 Nealon, J.), the court addressed various issues arising out of a COVID-19 personal injury claim.

In this matter, a nursing home employee, who claimed to have contracted work-related COVID-19 that allegedly caused permanent pulmonary and cardiac damage and required inpatient hospitalization, filed a corporate liability lawsuit against the owner and operator of the facility which allegedly declined to follow federal agency guidelines for the prevention and mitigation of the COVID-19 virus.

The Defendant owner/operator filed Preliminary Objections. 

In part, the Defendant asserted that it was immune from suit as the Plaintiff’s “statutory employer” under §302(a) of the Worker’s Compensation Act, 77 P.S. §46, or based upon the common law “borrowed employee” doctrine.

The court found that issues of fact prevented it from fully deciding whether the Defendant was entitled to such tort immunity. Accordingly, that argument was overruled without prejudice to the Defendant’s right to raise the issue again at this summary judgment stage of the litigation.

The Defendant owner/operator also filed a demurrer to the Plaintiff’s corporate negligence claim on the basis that the Defendant allegedly did not owe any duty of care to the Plaintiff.

Judge Nealon noted that, since the Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant owner/operator had breached its duty to formulate and implement adequate safety procedures and policies and to provide a safe work environment, this demurrer was denied.

The Defendant requested, pursuant to Pa. R.C.P. 1006(d)(1), a transfer of venue to the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas based upon forum non conveniens grounds.

The court noted that, given that the Defendant has not submitted any affidavit from any prospective witness, or some other form of evidence, establishing that Lackawanna County is a vexatious or oppressive forum, the Defendant had not satisfied its heavy burden of proof warranting a transfer of venue from the Plaintiff’s chosen forum. As such, this petition seeking a transfer of venue under Rule 1006(d)(1) was denied.

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

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