Let’s skip all of the scientific arguments concerning mask mandates. What would happen if a child who was forced to go to public school died as a result of COVID? Right now, Governor Ron DeSantis has issued an order saying that all public schools that force children to wear masks will lose funding. Children going to school this semester cannot be forced to wear masks. So what kind of liability issues does that raise?
The fact is that the same individual who is preventing schools from forcing children to wear masks has also passed laws that make it nearly impossible to sue over COVID-related injuries. Below, we’ll take a look at the COVID liability shield and the mess that the mask moratorium has created.
What the COVID liability shield says
The COVID liability shield prevents lawsuits from being filed against institutions, businesses, or even individuals for failing to secure their premises from the threat of the virus. These lawsuits were nearly impossible to win before, and now they are even less likely to succeed. According to the law, no proprietor can be held accountable for someone’s COVID infection so long as they made a real good-faith effort to follow the CDC’s recommendations.
So, as the CDC is recommending masks and while the law requires schools and everyone else to be in substantial compliance with their recommendations, the Governor has made the unilateral decision to force the schools to not follow the CDC recommendations. Does this expose the schools to liability? Probably not.
One Congressional candidate has filed a lawsuit against DeSantis saying that his rules place children, including his own, in danger. The lawsuit hopes to overturn DeSantis’ threat to defund public schools that enforce mask mandates.
Are schools generally liable for injuries to students?
Yes, schools can be sued if they cause injury to students. Typically, however, the plaintiff would need to prove that the school was negligent. For instance, one recently filed lawsuit blames a school district for a horseplay accident that occurred while the staff was not paying attention to the kids. This lawsuit is likely to be successful because the teacher in charge of the students at the time was not paying attention to them, and the plaintiffs have video to prove it.
In this case, however, the schools are between a liability rule that forces them to be in “substantial compliance” with CDC recommendations while simultaneously being forced by the governor to violate those recommendations. It has created a real mess that the courts will be sorting through for years to come, and should outbreaks at public schools occur, Governor DeSantis could conceivably be held liable. At the very least, it would likely be politically damaging.
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If you’ve been injured due to the negligence of another party, the Tampa personal injury attorneys at Palmer | Lopez can file a lawsuit on your behalf and recover damages related to your medical expenses, lost wages, and reduced quality of life. Call today to learn more!