Flu Cases Could Spur Homeowner Claims, Lawyer Says

NU Online News Service, Oct. 29, 1:20 p.m. EDT

Property and casualty insurers can expect to be hit by a swirl of claims arising from swine flu that include actions against homeowners and businesses, a medical malpractice defense attorney is predicting.

Charles Kutner, whose New York-based law firm defends individuals and institutions in the health industry, said he believes that p&c insurers may have to modify coverage to limit liability.

As hypothetical examples of the kind of legal action the illness could create, Mr. Kutner suggested that a suit could arise if a guest contracted flu after attending a cocktail party where the host did not warn that their child had the illness.

Similarly, a homeowner could be at risk of becoming a defendant if they failed to vaccinate their child against flu and the youngster passed on that illness to children invited for a play date--one of whom sickens and dies.

"The exposure is there [and] you've got a lawsuit on your hands," he warned.

Mr. Kutner said he thought malpractice actions could arise because of a lack of availability of flu vaccine, but he doubted they would be found to have merit.

There are also possible actions from medical complications arising from a flu shot, because "invariably there are complications from vaccines and lawsuits."

Employees, he said, can be encouraged to get flu shots, but, "Can you force employees to get flu shots? Probably not."

On the other hand, Mr. Kutner said that he believed an employer could be held liable "if you knew an employee was diagnosed with flu and you didn't tell everyone else on the staff."

To prevent against that sort of liability, he noted, universities make it a point to announce it to everyone at their institution when a student has contracted a communicable illness such as meningitis.

The key to a defense, he said, is putting third parties on notice when you have information. When a suit is brought, Mr. Kutner explained, the key issues are "What did you know? When did you know? And, what did you do about it."

In New York, Mr. Kutner noted there is a pending $40 million lawsuit brought by the family of school principal Mitchell Weiner against the city, claiming the Board of Education failed to alert the principal that he had been in contact with children who had tested positive for the virus; that it did not act quickly enough to stop the transmission of the disease; that it did not disseminate adequate information about health conditions that would increase the risks of the virus; and that it did not provide a safe working environment for Mr. Wiener and other school employees, among other allegations.

Mr. Kutner suggested that with so much exposure, insurers "are going to have to start thinking about homeowner policies and these big general liability policies."

"If there is a pandemic, it's potentially a major casualty loss," he said.


Resource Center

View All »

Complimentary White Paper: The Compression of Workplace Time

How brokers and carriers respond to the compression of workplace time will create significant competitive...

The Changing Insurance Consumer: 6 Ways to Create Profitable Relationships

Today’s mobile and web-savvy consumers have new expectations when it comes to interacting with your...

Contractors General Liability Coverage 102

What is a prior work exclusion? Which option is right for my client? Why do...

Sign up today to get a 50% matching credit -...

Insurance marketing sometimes seems like it's a game of swings and misses, but we're here...

Guide: 5 Steps to Selling Cyber

Cyber risk and data security is on the agenda of every business owner and executive....

Citation Correlation

Do rigger and signalperson qualifications correlate with the cause of crane and rigging accidents? ...

Complete Guide to Electronic Signatures in Property & Casualty Insurance...

In property and casualty insurance, closing new business quickly is key. Learn how to leverage...

INSTANT ACCESS: Complimentary Sales Closer Questionnaires

Help property owners or managers compare your commercial residential property insurance coverage vs. the competition....

Determining Vacant Property Perils and Valuations

Are your clients fully covered for Vacant Properties? In this economic climate, your insureds may...

Risk Management for Law Firms

This package of 3 concise risk management articles offers straightforward content and practical suggestions law...

Personal Lines Pro eNewsletter

Critical insights into the personal auto, homeowners, and other consumer insurance markets to help P&C professionals stay informed – FREE! Sign Up Now!

Advertisement. Closing in 15 seconds.