Legal Roundup: Employee’s Spouse Denied Retribution for COVID Diagnosis, Roundup Cancer Verdict Reduced in Appellate Court and More

The latest court filings and cases that will have an impact on the risk management and insurance industry.
By: | May 21, 2021

Husband’s Employer Gave Me COVID: Case Dismissed

The Case: Corby Kuciemba sued Victory Woodworks — her husband’s employer — claiming that she contracted COVID-19 due to the company’s negligence.

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In a lawsuit, she claimed that the company knew certain workers had contracted the virus and assigned them to Robert Kuciemba’s jobsite rather than sending them home to quarantine. Corby alleged she got the virus from her husband who contracted it at work — then blamed the company.

Both were hospitalized.

This was the first time a non-employee sued an employer over contracting COVID-19.

Scorecard: A judge for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed the case, because the workers’ comp law in the state does not require companies to provide safe workplaces for non-employees.

Takeaway: Is an employer responsible for the safety of an employee’s relative? Are they responsible for curbing transmission of the COVID-19 virus to relatives of employees?

The answer appears to be no.

The case could be a precedent setter for the pandemic. The National Law Review said the case “could set an example for other courts presently grappling with the same issue.”

Bank of America to Settle Excessive Overdraft Charging Allegation for $75 Million

The Case: A group of Bank of America customers sued the bank for extracting extra overdraft fees.

Reuters explains: “Customers said Bank of America often charged multiple $35 fees for insufficient funds or overdrafts on a single transaction, sometimes reflecting the bank’s repeated attempts to process it at a merchant’s request.”

In one case, a woman was charged a total of $105 after a $20 payment was rejected because the bank was “attempting without her knowledge to ‘retry’ processing the same payment five and nine days after the initial rejection, resulting in three $35 fees.”

Scorecard: Bank of America reached a preliminary settlement with the group for $75 million.

Takeaway: It’s not as brazen as the Wells Fargo scandal of opening accounts for customers without their knowledge, but this case does reflect a wider hope from customers that banks remove predatory practices.

Monsanto Cancer Case Upheld in Appeals Court

The Case: A California man named Edwin Hardeman said he contracted cancer after using Roundup weed killer.

In a widely publicized case, Hardeman battled with agro-giant Monsanto and was initially awarded an $80 million settlement. In 2019, a San Francisco jury found that “Roundup’s design was defective, it lacked sufficient cancer warnings and its manufacturer was negligent,” according to the Associated Press.

Monsanto appealed.

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Scorecard: In May, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Monsanto’s appeal but reduced the reward to $25 million.

The Associated Press reports: “The appellate court ruling said evidence from the case supported a conclusion that Monsanto acted with “indifference to or a reckless disregard of the health or safety of others” and thus was liable for punitive damages.”

Takeaway: There are “tens of thousands” more claims that the herbicide causes cancer, according to the Washington Post — and this ruling only makes them stronger. In fact, Bayer (which purchased Monsanto) has set aside $12 billion for future claims. &

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]