While we all welcome the roll out of the countries vaccination programme and hopefully a speedy return to normal life the management of Covid-19 outbreaks in nursing homes in Ireland is now coming under scrutiny as nursing home staff who became ill with Covid-19 are considering their legal options.
Under Irish Law Employers do not have an absolute duty to guarantee their employees safety but have a duty to provide their employees with a safe place of work and to take reasonable care to prevent them from being infected with infectious diseases.
Workers who unfortunately contracted Covid-19 will have to prove it was negligently acquired during the course of their employment and will have to identify the source of that infection. Failures by nursing home operators to provide adequate PPE for staff and have effective infection control policies and procedures in place will be examined as part of any litigation claims that are taken. The actual implementation of these policies in practice will be crucial to establishing liability or not.
There is also a critical role that asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic transmission has on the spread of COVID-19 in Nursing Homes.
Nursing Home operators are likely to defend any such claims on the basis that Covid-19 was clearly unforeseen and that they did everything they could possibly have done to prevent the spread of the infection within their Homes. These actions are not without risk as being able to satisfy a Court, on the balance of probabilities, that the infection was negligently acquired in the workplace can be a difficult hurdle to overcome.
*In contentious business a Solicitor may not charge fees based on a percentage of an award or settlement.
*This article is a legal commentary on some of the duties owed by Employers to Employees under the laws of negligence and is not aimed at promoting the taking of any such legal claims.