Tuesday, 14 July 2020
Department of Finance
Personal Injury Claims
311. To ask the Minister for Finance if his attention has been drawn to personal injuries claims being taken on the basis of persons claiming to have contracted Covid-19 in specific premises; if there is a clear plan to ensure business are not unfairly held liable in these circumstances; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15699/20]
At the outset, I wish to emphasise that specific details on businesses operating in the context of the pandemic are a matter for my colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and his Department. In addition to this, matters of liability fall under the remit of the Department of Justice and my colleague the Minister for Justice.
Having noted this, in my remit as Minister for Finance I do appreciate that many businesses operating in the new environment have genuine concerns regarding whether they will have insurance cover for claims relating to COVID-19. Whether a business’s insurance provides cover for such claims will depend on the specifics of the business’s insurance policy, and it is possible that some policies may cover such claims, but it is also likely that others will not. In addition, on renewal it is possible that many insurers will change their terms and conditions to exclude any future claims for COVID-19. In this regard, it should be noted that neither I, nor the Central Bank of Ireland, have any influence over the decisions of insurers in relation to the provision of such cover.
With regards to the Deputy’s point that individuals may claim against businesses if they allege that they have contracted COVID-19 on their property, I am not aware of any such personal injury claims being made and therefore cannot comment on this. At this juncture, I would like to emphasise that while it may be possible for a claim to be made, it may well be the case that it would be difficult to prove where a person specifically caught the virus in the first place. Therefore, taking such actions may not be straightforward, and even if initiated, there can be no guarantee of a successful outcome.
For now, I believe that the best way that a business can protect itself from litigation is to follow public health guidelines and implement social distancing measures and this is also true for all individuals in terms of their own health. Furthermore, I would urge all workplaces to review the COVID-19 Specific National Protocol for Employers and Workers as set out in the ‘Return to Work Safely Protocol’ (www.gov.ie/en/publication/22829a-return-to-work-safely-protocol/), which is the result of a collaborative effort by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), the Health Services Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health and the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment.