Guinea, December 2013 — A curious disease took hold in the heart of West Africa. The strange illness, which was previously documented, found a way to break through the isolation of small villages and make its way to the larger city of Sierra Leon. From there, the epidemic festered and spread it reaches far and wide to the world at large.
Ebola is a very deadly disease that has a mortality rate of 70%. The latest outbreak has infected more than all previous Ebola outbreaks combined and has killed a staggering amount of people including many healthcare workers treating Ebola patients.
Media coverage of the disease and the rampant, seemingly uncontrollable, spread of the disease induce fear and anxiety to the general American public. Some people have suggested drastic measures such as quarantining people who have recently traveled to West Africa for a discrete amount of time.
The seriousness of the situation has caused many people to question the risks and benefits of drastic action. Very recently, Reed Smith, a distinguished international law firm, formed a group dedicated to addressing the legal issues associated with the Ebola outbreak.
What are the legal implications of Ebola in regards to how businesses operate? Is it legal to quarantine people without their consent? Can businesses be held liable for the accidental spread of the disease? These are all questions that the recently formed group is trying to address.
The following scenarios below outline some major questions that are associated with the Ebola outbreak…
1. A shipping company that operates in West Africa ships major goods to the United States. A cargo crate has been infected with fluids from a West African worker unaware of being infected. The disease manages to survive the flight to the United States and infects a worker handling the crate. The worker goes home and infects his family, who, in turn, infects more people. Can the business be held liable for the incident?
2. A businessman recently traveled to West Africa to conduct some key transactions. Upon arrival to the United States, he is quarantined against his will for 2 weeks. He claims to feel completely fine and does not believe he is infected. After, 2 weeks he proves to be completely healthy. The quarantining prevented him from closing the transaction and the company is forced to take the loss.
3. Take the same scenario above but instead of being quarantined, the gentleman says he feels fine and is allowed to conduct his operations. A week later he goes to the hospital and is confirmed with having the disease. CDC is then forced to track his movements and notify anyone he came in contact with, that they could be infected.
These scenarios are obviously just hypotheticals, for the time being, but it’s good to address the issue. It is important to know how we will handle the situation, if we ever come across this dilemma.
What do you think about the above scenarios? Go to http://www.blicklawfirm.com and give us your thoughts and opinion regarding the Ebola outbreak. Should businesses be fined or penalized for the spread of Ebola?