Eugene, OR asked in Personal Injury and Wrongful Death for Oregon

Q: If I stayed at a persons rental a month after they had covid and then I got sick with covid is the owner liable

2 Lawyer Answers
Mr. Michael O. Stevens
Mr. Michael O. Stevens
  • Hillsboro, OR
  • Licensed in Oregon

A: You seem to imply you believe you got COVID from them. That would be extremely unlikely when you look at the science. Even the CDC has said in the last few months all the cleaning we did wasn't needed, as the odds of transmission that way are extremely remote. That is, by the time you stayed at the rental, the person was likely COVID free. On top of that, can you prove that was your only exposure, versus out in public at a store, at work, at a restaurant? Doubtful.

Gabriel A Watson agrees with this answer

Gabriel A Watson
Gabriel A Watson
  • Portland, OR
  • Licensed in Oregon

A: I agree with what others have answered to this question. It is very unlikely that you have a claim against the renter or that most ethical attorneys would be willing to pursue such a claim. This doesn't mean there is no chance whatsoever that your stay at the rental caused your COVID, but from a legal and medical perspective, the possibility is very low and even less with a personal injury or wrongful death theory.

Here's why. If you're writing this're alive. Not dead. And if you're not dead...there isn't a claim for wrongful death. For personal injury, you'd have to show the renter had a duty to do something (this could be warning you that he had COVID, cleaning properly, or something else).

You'd have to be prove, more likely than not, (1) that the renter had this duty, (2) that he owed this duty to you, (3) that the defendant neglected/failed/breached in this duty, (4) that the defendant's failure caused your condition i.e. COVID, (5) that COVID caused you some form of harm (getting hospitalized, sick, stressed, etc. would all work) and (6) that your harm can be rectified with a judgment in your favor. Whereas the defendant would only need to show one of these issues is not more likely than not--you would have to prove each of the factors 1-6 is more likely than not.

Given the most recent data relating to prevention, cleaning, causation, prevention, etc. I'd be surprised if this sort of claims would survive summary judgment. This is where the other side says there's no reasonable juror who could find in your favor and you have to show otherwise--for each of the above factors. A judge would then decide whether she or he agrees with you or the other side--which they will determine based on the law.

I also suspect any defendant would want to know whether you were vaccinated. If you are good. If not, given CDC numbers...the other side would probably argue that your negligence contributed to whatever damage you suffered. So even if you proved everything else--you could still have your claim summarily judged and thrown out on that basis.

Claims like this are tricky, and in Oregon I don't think the Court's would be receptive to this sort of claim. Now, if you were to find an expert medical doctor or epidemiologist whose expertise says otherwise...that could change things a bit. But that would be very expensive.

Because COVID doesn't ordinarily have a 30-day incubation period...if you were COVID positive 30-days after your stay, a party opponent would be very curious what happened in the 30-days between your stay and your positive diagnosis.

Again, this doesn't mean you have nothing to claim--but in my opinion this would be a very very difficult, if not impossible claim to prove to the standard necessary to bring, let alone win, a civil suit.

To be fair, I know this program hamstrings you into a certain claim or probable claim--and often a creative and well informed attorney can come up with some claim aka "cause of action" other than those you propose...but here, even that would be a difficult thing to do and a long shot to win even then. Every situation relies on a lot more facts and details than most tend to post in their questions--but on its face, the answer to your question is no.

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