Negligence Per Se And The COVID-19 Pandemic

An experienced personal injury attorney may provide the necessary expertise to achieve success in any personal injury matter. The attorneys at Powell Law carry on the work of a law firm that spans generations and has represented thousands of Pennsylvanians over a period of 115 years. At Powell Law, it is our goal to protect and assert our clients’ rights effectively in any matter, including those involving personal injury.

To maintain an action in negligence, a plaintiff must establish that the defendant (1) owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, (2) that the defendant failed to perform or breached the duty of care, (3) the failure was the legal and proximate causes of the plaintiff’s damages, and (4) the plaintiff suffered actual _injury or harm that resulted in damages.

The concept of negligence per se establishes both duty and the required breach of duty where an individual violates a statute, ordinance, or regulation designed to prevent some public harm. Statutes “grounded upon public health and safety” that set a standard of care, when violated, result in the defendant’s negligence per se. The statute or regulation must be adequately specific in creating a standard of care and may not be used to establish negligence for any harm for which it was not designed to protect against or prevent.

The operation of motor vehicles in Pennsylvania is governed by the Motor Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S.A. § 3101 et seq. Any violation of these statutes is negligence per se. However, a plaintiff has the burden of establishing that the defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of the injury.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, a fair number of lawsuits are likely to arise based on the assertion by members of the general public and employees who assert that they were exposed to and contracted the coronavirus due to inadequate cleaning and safety procedures. A business may face liability for exposure-related claims because it was considered a non-essential business that did not cease doing business when recommended to close or did not enact policies and other protocols to enforce social distancing guidelines.

The question arises whether the violation by a business of a stay-at-home order or similar regulation falls under the concept of negligence per se. While current OSHA and CDC guidelines are not statutory law in Pennsylvania, any COVID-19 regulations that may become law in Pennsylvania may form the basis of a claim for negligence per se.

Some jurisdictions that recognize the legal concept of negligence per se only allow legislative, rather than executive, mandates to protect a class of persons and their interests being protected. Most mandatory stay-at-home and social-distancing orders have been issued by governors and mayors, who represent the executive rather than the legislative branch. Some states also require that the legislature must express a clear intent to impose private civil liability rather than a fine or other penalties.

Because of these specialized rules and requirements, consulting with a personal injury lawyer with experience litigating and settling personal injury cases may be crucial to your case. The attorneys at Powell Law are distinguished personal injury attorneys who carry on a 115-year tradition of providing thoughtful, effective representation protecting and asserting the rights of Pennsylvanians living in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and surrounding communities. Our decades of experience make us the clear and obvious choice for representation in personal injury cases in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and surrounding areas. Contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777. The consultation is FREE, and you don’t pay unless we win!

Negligence Per Se And The COVID-19 Pandemic

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