What began as a non-threatening mosquito-borne illness has now become a full-blown epidemic in many South and Central American countries. Zika has even already made its way into our very own backyard, Miami Beach. Areas such as Wynwood and South Beach have already been on high alert for the virus, which we imagine is beginning to hurt local businesses in the area as well as tourism for the city of Miami as a whole.
What we already know about the virus is that it poses the largest threat to pregnant women and their fetuses, which can develop serious complications and birth defects -- namely a condition called microcephaly, which causes abnormal smallness of the infant's head, leading to incomplete brain development. We also know that the virus can be spread through sexual intercourse, much like an STD. What you may not know are the different levels of liability involved in contracting this virus. In other words, can you sue someone if you become infected with Zika?
People working in an environment where they are regularly exposed to the virus, such as hospital staff and medical personnel, may have a claim against their employer if they become infected with the Zika virus. This particular case would fall under employer negligence, meaning the employer failed to adequately prepare, warn, and train their staff to properly handle the outbreak and the risks at hand. Any hospital or medical facility treating patients with the virus must exercise what is known as reasonable care in protecting their employees as well as the public, and should not operate in any way that may increase a person's risk of becoming infected.
A case similar to this involved a nurse from Texas who filed a lawsuit against the hospital after contracting Ebola while working. Her claim focuses on a number of negligence issues and is currently in the early stages of what could be a very complex litigation.
Negligence of A Sexual Partner
Because Zika is also a sexually transmitted virus, cases in which one person becomes infected by a sexual partner can be handled much like liability cases for STDs. You can in fact sue someone for giving you an STD by proving your sexual partner's negligence to warn you of the infection if they were aware of their own diagnosis. In these cases, a judge or jury must be convinced that a reasonable person would have otherwise abstained from sex. This case would also have to prove that the infected partner had a duty to inform the other or to prevent the spread of the infection and that the duty was in fact breached. The partner at fault may be found guilty even if contraceptives such as condoms were used.
Most government entities -- such as city-, county-, or state-owned properties and establishments -- have in place what is known as sovereign immunity, meaning they cannot be found guilty of committing a legal wrong for which they could face criminal prosecution. Depending on the details of your case, you may still be able to file a claim against the city if you are able to prove their failure to properly warn citizens of the risk or failure to act quickly enough to prevent the virus from spreading.
If you think you may be infected with the Zika virus, it's important to know your options. As a personal injury attorney in Miami, FL, who has dealt with hundreds of negligence cases, I urge you to become familiar with all the ways you can avoid the Zika virus and how to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from harm. Avoid Zika-infested areas, carry the proper mosquito repellant, and be sure to cover up exposed skin as much as possible. If those methods fail, it's important to know your legal rights and protect yourself from any further anguish, pain, or suffering.