We’ve previously covered Supporting Ontario’s Recovery Act, 2020, (the “Act”), which limits the ability of personal injury claimants to sue others after being exposed to or contracting COVID-19 in certain circumstances. However, as we head into the fall – and back to school, work, or other day-to-day activities – many are wondering whether they will be able to hold others accountable if they are exposed to COVID-19.
For instance, in August, a Vaughan parent was fined after sending their child to daycare despite the fact that they were exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Unfortunately, 15 children at the daycare subsequently tested positive for COVID-19. The parent received a fine and had to pay a victim surcharge fee.
Beyond fines and victim surcharge fees, victims who have contracted COVID-19 in these circumstances could potentially sue the wrongful actor for damages. Given the ever-changing public health rules relating to COVID-19 and the unclear future of litigation relating to COVID-19 exposure, prospective claimants who have been exposed to or contracted COVID-19 should consult with a skilled personal injury lawyer who can interpret the legislation and determine whether it applies to their unique circumstances.
Fines Relating to COVID-19 Exposure
Under the Reopening Ontario Act, 2020, failing to follow COVID-19 restrictions can result in fines determined by the Ontario Court of Justice.
An individual who fails to comply with the restrictions can be issued a minimum fine of $750.00. There are also fines for obstructing an authority of an individual from enforcing or complying with an order (a minimum fine of $1,000.00) or hosting parties or gatherings in violation of the regulations (a minimum fine of $10,000.00 on conviction). The total maximum penalty for an individual is $100,000.00 and up to one year in jail.
Possibility of Legal Action Following COVID-19 Exposure
Under Schedule 1 of Supporting Ontario’s Recovery Act, 2020, individuals are protected from liability for exposing others to COVID-19 if they made a good faith effort to act in accordance with public health guidance or law relating to coronavirus (COVID-19) that applied to the person, and the act or omission of the person does not constitute gross negligence.
However, the courts have not yet released a decision addressing what “gross negligence” means as it applies to this act. To that end, if an individual is exposed to or contracts COVID-19 due to the negligence of a person or business, they may have a cause of action against them. Note that the test for establishing “gross negligence” in the common law is a particularly difficult one to meet. The Dictionary of Canadian Law (4th ed.) defines “gross negligence” as “[c]onduct in which if there is not conscious wrongdoing, there is a very marked departure from the standard by which responsible and competent people … habitually govern themselves … a high or serious degree of negligence“.
Therefore, the likelihood of an individual successfully advancing a claim for gross negligence would likely require a particularly egregious action on the part of the wrongful party.
What Supporting Ontario’s Recovery Act Means for Personal Injury Claimants and Defendants
The best thing individuals can do to minimize their risk (both as personal injury claimants and as defendants) is to not only stay up to date on public health measures, advice, and laws but to make best efforts to follow them as well. Bear in mind that the rules that apply to you can vary significantly depending on your Public Health Unit region. For more information on the current public health measures and advice in your Public Health Unit region, visit this Government of Ontario page.
If you have been negligently exposed to COVID-19, speak with a skilled personal injury lawyer. They will be in the best position to assess the likelihood of success in advancing a claim.
Skilled Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Eastern Ontario and North Bay
At Tierney Stauffer LLP, our experienced personal injury lawyers diligently advocate for your rights if you are injured. Whether you have contracted COVID-19 due to the negligence of an individual or business or suffered other loss or damage, we can provide you with the information you need to move forward and, if you have a case against an individual or business, the fearless legal representation you need to obtain the best possible resolution.
We recognize that no two claims are the same, which is why we give each client the personalized attention needed to bring about the best possible resolution. Call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online to set up a free consultation with a member of our team.