Under Indiana WC, a Claimant would have to prove that an exposure to a virus was specific to work and was not “an ordinary disease of life.” This is a high standard, relatively speaking, and would likely require evidence of others in the same workspace contracting the disease and supporting documentation.

For example, in 2017, we successfully defeated a claim (Willis, Ruthanna v. American Senior Communities, C-221336, decision issued May 2017) concerning influenza in the workplace. There, the Claimant worked in a nursing home, and alleged an infectious epidemic of flu in January 2013. She claimed she caught the flu and it then developed into Guillian-Barre Syndrome (a rare disorder in which the body's immune system attacks the nerves, causing weakness; G-B Syndrome is often preceded by an infectious illness such as the flu or a respiratory infection). However, the Judge concluded that she could not prove her claim with evidence, because a) the medical records failed to corroborate that she had the flu (or complained of flu-like symptoms) before her diagnosis of G-B Syndrome; and b) there was no credible evidence that the viral exposure was rampant in the facility. Therefore, Claimant failed to meet her burden of proving by a preponderance of the credible evidence that her G-B Syndrome arose out of and in the course of her employment.

Coronavirus appears to be a global disease, and not restricted to a certain geographic area or in a certain industry. We are seeing the infection spread through churches, airports, schools, and other such places with a concentration of people. Also, it has a fourteen-day incubation period. It will be very difficult for a Claimant to prove that an infection of Coronavirus solely arose out of and in the course of employment. However, it is conceivable such a claim might arise in the healthcare industry (like a hospital) where this virus is more prevalent.

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