Is My Church Liable If I Got Coronavirus After Attending Service During California’s Stay-at-Home Order?

The COVID-19 pandemic necessitates many difficult decisions. Decisions that most Americans never thought they would have to make. The health and well-being of the population had to be weighed against freedoms, maintaining regular life routines, and economics. Businesses have closed either temporarily or permanently, schools ended their year months earlier than usual, and even elective surgeries and dental appointments had to be canceled or postponed. Going out to eat, seeing a movie in the theater, and also going to the gym became activities people learned they previously took for granted. 

Church Services Canceled Due to Coronavirus Spread

Churches across the country were not exempt from these difficult decisions.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control even issued guidelines for faith-based community organizations. The vast majority of them put the health of their parishioners and local community above the need to gather together in their places of worship. Many were able to convert to online church services to continue to serve their congregation. 

In an unprecedented move, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints temporarily suspended all services and other public gatherings of church members worldwide. An official church statement asked members “to care for one another” instead of attending worship services for the foreseeable future. 


Some Place of Worship Still Having Services

However, a handful of churches in states that had strict shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders from their governors, such as the case in California, chose to keep conducting in-person services. Even in states without these types of orders but recommendations to not gather in groups of more than ten people, churches continued to hold services with hundreds or even thousands in attendance.  As for reasons to keep holding gatherings at church, these churches cited religious liberties, deeming worship an essential activity. They expressed that they did not want to contribute to pandemic panic.  

If you attended a church service in-person during a shelter-in-place order and were later diagnosed with COVID-19, it’s a good idea to meet with a knowledgeable California personal injury attorney. Discussing your circumstances with a lawyer can help you understand if you have a personal injury case against your church or any other parties.

Understanding How Coronavirus is Transmitted

Social distancing, stay-at-home orders, and other regulations all arise from the way that COVID-19 is transmitted. To understand why these actions were taken and why churches should suspend services for a while, you must understand how the virus can spread from one person to the next. 

Person-to-person transmission is the most common route for the virus to infect someone. People who are in close contact with each other (usually within a distance of six feet) are at risk of spreading the virus even if they are not symptomatic yet or becoming infected with it. When an infected individual talks, sneezes, or coughs, they produce respiratory droplets. These droplets can then end up in the mouths or noses of others nearby or even be inhaled into the lungs. If an individual is infected with coronavirus, it can easily be spread other people without even touching them. 

Churches have several risk factors for their members when it comes to contracting such an illness. They are places where large groups of people gather, and sometimes church services can routinely draw hundreds or even thousands of people. Once inside a church or the church’s worship center, people are close to one another, further aiding transmission of the virus. 

Research shows that it can live up to three hours suspended in the air. If inhaled, it will reach the lungs and quite possibly cause another infection. Research also shows that if someone coughs or sneezes on a surface like a doorknob, a light switch, a pen, or even an offering plate, the virus can invade the body of anyone who touches the object within that timeframe.

Be Aware of the Symptoms of COVID-19

If you have been exposed to COVID-19 or are showing its symptoms, it is imperative that you reach out to your healthcare provider as soon as possible. This will help ensure that you do not further spread the virus and that you get the level of medical care that you need. The majority of patients are encouraged to rest and recover at home unless they are experiencing emergency symptoms

Common symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Repeated shaking with chills
  • Muscle pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • New loss of taste or smell

For some patients, a COVID-19 infection can feel like the flu. Others may get skin rashes, especially on their toes. 

Is Your Church Liable for Your Coronavirus Infection?

COVID-19 infections can be debilitating and even deadly for some populations. Its highly infectious nature makes everyone susceptible. Under California law, if you are harmed as a result of the carelessness of another person or party, you could potentially be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit to recoup your damages. 

Although, this is an extremely complex issue when it comes to church-goers becoming infected with the coronavirus. As such, it is best to schedule a case consultation with an experienced California personal injury lawyer as soon as possible if there is a possibility that you contracted this virus at a church service or function. 

Requirements of a Successful Personal Injury Lawsuit for COVID-19

All personal injury cases, no matter what the specific details might be, must meet certain requirements to be a valid lawsuit and to have the potential to be successful. When you meet with a California personal injury attorney regarding your COVID-19 infection and church attendance, they will be carefully reviewing the facts of your case to determine if you have a potentially successful claim. The circumstances surrounding your claim must include the following:

  • The existence of a duty
  • Breach of duty
  • Injury
  • Proximate cause
Duty and Breach of Duty 

For example, in a car accident personal injury claim, one driver owed a duty to the injured driver. They are legally required to follow the rules of the road and to prevent an accident whenever possible. If they ran a red light or were texting while driving and caused an accident, they breached their duty. 

For individuals who were diagnosed with coronavirus that believe came from their church after it disobeyed public safety orders to close, duty and breach of duty may be harder to prove. However, it could be argued that your church had a duty to close since it was under an executive order to do so. 

By not closing, they breached their duty. Other ways they could breach a duty could be not cleaning and disinfecting as they should or not warning the congregation if there is anyone who has been in the church building or at church functions that have been diagnosed with coronavirus. Attorneys for your church may argue that you voluntarily went to church knowing that the church was under orders not to hold service and that there was a known risk of getting coronavirus. Questions that might be asked about your case include:

  • Did the church inform congregants that they were not adhering to public safety orders?
  • Did the church disclose any known COVID-19 infections of people who had been in the building?
Injury and Proximate Cause

If your California personal injury lawyer can prove that your church breached a duty and was negligent, the next step is to have the evidence to prove that their breach of duty caused your injuries or damages. Do you have proof that your coronavirus infection did indeed originate at church and not somewhere else? If there were a significant outbreak or a super-spreading event, this would be easier to prove. Even if a couple of other people who attended church when you did receive a diagnosis of the virus, it can help show that you acquired it at church. Otherwise, it might be challenging to determine where you were exposed to COVID-19 that caused you to become infected.

Additionally, your California personal injury attorney must show how you were injured as a result of your infection. Contracting a mild infection that kept you home for a week or two in mild to moderate discomfort will not likely lead to compensable damages. If you were hospitalized, needed a ventilator, were near death, lost your job, and amassed expensive medical bills, you are much more likely to prove your damages and have a successful case. In this situation, it will be much easier to show your suffering and how your infection negatively impacted your personal, professional, and financial life. 

Did You Contract COVID-19 at Church? Contact an Award-Winning California Personal Injury Attorney at Arash Law Today

We are living in unprecedented and unusual times, which are bound to produce personal injury lawsuits that have not been tried before. At Arash Law, we do not shy away from cases that are difficult to prove. Instead, we fight for our clients to receive the compensation they deserve. Our California personal injury lawyers have recovered more than $200 million for previous clients. We help personal injury clients in San Francisco, Riverside, San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento, Sherman Oaks, and throughout California.  

If you think you have a case, do not procrastinate to reach out for help. We can meet with clients over the phone and by videoconferencing. Contact Arash Law today at (888) 488-1391 or online to receive your free COVID-19 personal injury case consultation.

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DISCLAIMER: Information provided on this blog is not formal legal advice. It is generic legal information. Under no circumstances should the information on this page be relied upon when deciding the proper course of a legal action. Always obtain a free and confidential case evaluation from a reputable attorney near you if you think you might have a personal injury lawsuit.

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