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Can Venues Be Sued For Spreading Communicable Diseases?

Every now and then we hear about a business like a hotel or cruise ship getting quarantined for the presence of a serious pathogen. Some infectious diseases, like hepatitis A or Legionnaires’ disease, can linger in an environment that’s not kept clean and dry. The consequences for someone who contracts such a disease can be devastating, even fatal. When a patron of a business comes down with a serious illness that can be traced to the business itself, a lawsuit may follow.

Premises liability and communicable disease

Like other types of personal injury lawsuits, a civil case for damages arising from a disease will be based on the theory of negligence. To prevail in a negligence suit, the injured plaintiff must show:

  • The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care.
  • The defendant breached that duty of care.
  • The defendant’s breach was the legal cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.
  • The plaintiff’s injuries resulted in damages, like medical bills and lost earnings.

In Nevada the owner or operator of a property has a legal duty to take reasonable care to ensure that visitors on the property are not injured by dangerous conditions on the premises. Foster v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 128 Nev. 773, 777 (2012). A business that invites the public onto its property is expected to take extra steps to ensure that its facilities are safe for use. Doud v. Las Vegas Hilton Corp., 109 Nev. 1096 (1993). A business is expected to correct problems that it knows about, or should know about. A business is also responsible for problems created by the actions, or inactions, of its employees. Sprague v. Lucky Stores, 109 Nev. 247, 250 (1993).

The foreseeability of disease

One challenge in a case involving disease is that the source of the disease probably was invisible. This differentiates disease from ordinary premises liability cases arising from things like improperly maintained stairways. Unlike a pool of spilled olive oil on a supermarket floor, bacteria on the rim of a spa or a virus lurking in water pipes isn’t easy to spot. This can make the element of actual or constructive notice more difficult to prove in the case of disease.

Instead, a plaintiff likely will argue that the presence of disease was a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s negligence. Hammerstein v. Jean Dev. West, 111 Nev. 1471, 1477 (1995). In other words, a venue that fails to take reasonable steps to clean areas where bacteria can foreseeably thrive arguably has acted negligently. A gym needs to routinely disinfect its shower areas. A hotel needs to keep its pool and spa areas properly treated.

GGRM understands premises liability

For over 45 years, the experienced personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have given personalized, caring advice to clients in the Las Vegas area. If you are recovering from a disease that you think was caused by a venue’s negligence, an attorney can help you review your options. For a free attorney consultation call us today at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you by leaving a note on our contact page.