WARNING – Your New Year’s Eve Party Can Get You Sued; Hosts of Super Spreader Events Can Be Liable For Resulting COVID
You Can Be Sued For Hosting A New Year's Eve Party
WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 31, 2020) - Guests at New Year's Eve parties who have now came down with COVID, and can plausibly trace it back to the gathering, can sue the host for negligence in orchestrating a deadly super-spreader event, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who has been called an "Entrepreneur of Litigation, [and] a Trial Lawyer's Trial Lawyer."
Indeed, Banzhaf has been so successful in many novel and unprecedented law suits - e.g., against tobacco companies, fast food corporations, and even Spiro T. Agnew - that he has been called "a Driving Force Behind the Lawsuits That Have Cost Tobacco Companies Billions of Dollars," the "Dean of Public Interest Lawyers," "The Law Professor Who Masterminded Litigation Against the Tobacco Industry," the lawyer "Who's Leading the Battle Against Big Fat," "The Man Big Tobacco and Now Fast Food Love to Hate," and "a Major Crusader Against Big Tobacco and Now Among Those Targeting the Food Industry."
With so many governors and other public figures, as well as a large parade of experts, issuing stern warnings on TV and in the media about the dangers of spreading COVID at indoor gatherings, it should be easy to persuade a jury that hosting such a gathering - particularly since 6-foot social distancing can hardly be followed, and guests can't wear masks while eating and drinking - constituted legal "negligence"; i.e., the failure to act like a reasonable prudent person and take reasonable precautions.
In any such negligence action - for damages if the guest contracts the disease but lives (perhaps with lasting disabilities) or dies (in a wrongful death suit) - the key issue would be whether the plaintiff either was himself negligent for attending, and/or knowingly assumed the risk of contracting COVID.
The Legal Doctrines Of Contributory Negligence
But, says Banzhaf, who teaches personal injury law, states have largely moved away from the old rule that a plaintiff who was negligent in also causing his own injury is barred from any recovery against another person or entity (such as a manufacturer of a dangerous product) because of the legal doctrines of contributory negligence and/or assumption of risk.
Instead, the more common rule is to apply the doctrine of comparative negligence. Thus, if the host's negligence is seen by a jury as being 60% responsible for the death or injury, with the adult plaintiff only 40% responsible, the plaintiff (or his estate) should be entitled to recover 60% of the damages, rather than being barred from any recovery at all.
So, in addition to the medical dangers of putting a large number of friends at risk by hosting a traditional New Year's Eve party, hosts should be concerned their own potential legal liability for civil damages if a guest subsequently suffers from COVID-19, suggests Banzhaf, who says he would not be surprised if such suits began to be brought within weeks by families in which a guest died, suffered disabilities, or even simply contracted this deadly and disability disease at a holiday gathering.