Personal injury lawyers in Buffalo are busy these days. With the COVID-19 virus, New York has been the hardest-hit state in the country. So much so, the government has stepped in to limit social interaction and has even indefinitely shut down small businesses.
Limiting virus exposure is causing ripple effects across the nation and globe, with executive orders restricting crowds and “shelter in place” orders. Aside from all the legal implications these measures carry, is there any civil action you can take against those who ignore social distancing?
Personal Injury Law & Deliberately Infecting Others
Given the State-ordered social distancing measures, people have the legal obligation to not breach a 6-foot radius of other people. But what if someone does breach this? And is there any legal precedent to those who disregard these state mandates?
Under the Center for Disease Control’s 2014 guidelines for disease prevention, the closest precedent is found under ramifications for intentionally spreading STDs. According to the CDC, if a person commits certain crimes while infected with an STD, general criminal statutes, such as reckless endangerment and attempted murder, can apply.
Engaging in sexual intercourse – while knowing you have a sexually transmitted disease or infection, and not informing your partner – is a crime of unlawful acts in New York. However, the offending party must be aware they are infected with the virus. Though proving whether or not they were aware may prove a challenge, providing evidence they breached state-mandated distancing requirements may be more realistic.
A high-profile example of intentional harm in the late 1990’s in this regard concerned a Brooklyn man’s actions in Jamestown. Nushawn Williams was aware he was infected with HIV in 1996 when he spread his infection in Chautauqua County. Though not charged with attempted murder, he was subsequently sentenced to 12 years in prison.
As of 2019, at least 29 states criminalize “nondisclosure, exposure or transmission” of HIV, while an additional 5 states use this to justify enhancements for sentences for other crimes. Nearly 40 states currently have laws regarding the criminalization of HIV transmission. New York state is among these.
Personal Injury & Coronavirus On the National Level
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen detailed in a memo to the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys and the heads of federal law enforcement agencies the tools available to prevent any intentional virus spreading. “[Y]ou may encounter criminal activity ranging from malicious hoaxes to threats targeting specific individuals or the general public, to the purposeful exposure and infection of others with COVID-19,” Rosen wrote. “Because coronavirus appears to meet the statutory definition of a ‘biological agent’ under [federal law], such acts potentially could implicate the Nation’s terrorism-related statutes.”
Though no one has faced federal charges for threatening or attempting to infect others to date, the Justice Department has taken action in other areas related to the outbreak. Beyond any civil, personal injury matter, first-degree misdemeanor criminal charges are likely imposed for knowingly, purposefully or recklessly exposing people to coronavirus.
When people ignore their civil obligation, or blatantly defy it with the intent to harm, they are responsible for their actions. So when it comes to understanding the various ways in which personal injury has impacted your daily life, Joe Nicastro, esq is your source.
Remaining opening and fully functional during these trying times, Joe helps you determine your best possible route in pursuing any monetary damages you deserve. He has been contacted by lawyers across the country who have been in contact with people in New York but has not agreed to take any cases so far.
Learn more here.