Unlike many other situations in which one person’s negligent conduct causes harm to someone else—like a car accident or a slip-and-fall—the potential person-to-person spread of COVID-19 isn’t likely to form any sort of viable basis for a civil lawsuit seeking monetary compensation (“damages”) from the person who allegedly did the infecting. Perhaps another way to put this is, even if someone is convinced that you are the person who infected them with COVID-19, and they try to file a personal injury lawsuit against you in court, that kind of case has almost no chance of succeeding. Let’s look at why this might be.
Most successful personal injury cases require the person bringing the claim (the plaintiff) to prove not only that the defendant (the person being sued) did something wrong, but also that there’s a provable causal link between that misconduct and the plaintiff’s harm. In the context of a potential lawsuit based on coronavirus infection, establishing personal injury liability would require showing that one identifiable person (the defendant) actually passed the infection onto another identifiable person (the plaintiff)—mere fear of being infected isn’t enough. With the coronavirus so prevalent in so many communities (and so easily passed from person to person), this level of proof would be next to impossible.
A case like this might have something in common with one in which the plaintiff claims harm caused by transmission of a sexually-transmitted disease (STD), but those cases are typically based on an intentional act (sexual intercourse), intentional misrepresentation or failure to disclose key information, and a much easier-proven causal link between the defendant’s wrongdoing and the corresponding harm to the plaintiff. And even with all of that being said, personal injury lawsuits based on STD transmission are still tough to prove.
Bottom line: Posing a threat to the public in general can’t form the basis of a personal injury lawsuit, and it’s next to impossible to prove that one person actually caused another person’s illness in the midst of this pandemic.