See's Candies, Inc. v. Superior CourtAnnotate this Case
Plaintiffs, Matilde Ek (Mrs. Ek), Karla Ek-Elhadidy, Lucila del Carmen Ek, and Maria Ek-Ewell, filed suit alleging that defendants' employee, Mrs. Ek, contracted COVID-19 at work because of defendants' failure to implement adequate safety measures. Plaintiffs claimed that Arturo Ek subsequently caught the disease from Mrs. Ek while she convalesced at home and subsequently died from the disease a month later. Defendants filed a demurrer asserting that plaintiffs' claims are preempted by the exclusivity provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act (WCA).
The Court of Appeal denied the petition for writ of mandate directing the trial court to vacate an order overruling defendants' demurrer to a wrongful death action. Assuming arguendo that Mrs. Ek's workplace infection constitutes an injury for purposes of the WCA, the court rejected defendants' efforts to apply the derivative injury doctrine to any injury causally linked to an employee injury. The court explained that defendants' interpretation is inconsistent with the language of Snyder v. Michael's Stores, Inc. (1997) 16 Cal.4th 991, 1000, which establishes that the fact an employee's injury is the biological cause of a nonemployee's injury does not thereby make the nonemployee's claim derivative of the employee's injury. Furthermore, Snyder's discussion of prior case law applying the derivative injury doctrine does not support applying the doctrine based solely on causation.