CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Every school district in North Carolina and South Carolina is taking a different approach for the upcoming year as COVID-19 remains prevalent across the region.
State laws and local decisions have affected policies for both masks and vaccination requirements or suggestions. But now, parents have a new question as their concerns over COVID-19 are rising: What if my child gets COVID-19 from a teacher who has declined the vaccine?
Can parents sue if their child gets sick from an unvaccinated teacher?
- Local school districts in the Charlotte area
- Gary Mauney, attorney and managing partner at Mauney PLLC
- Dr. Chris Bregier, Emergency Medicine Physician and Medical Director of Corporate Health at Novant Health
Yes. According to Mauney, parents can sue if their child gets sick from an unvaccinated teacher.
WHAT WE FOUND
WCNC Charlotte's VERIFY team spoke with each public school district in the Charlotte area and none of them said they require teachers get the COVID-19 vaccine. Those decisions have been made despite warnings from health leaders, like Dr. Bregier, stating the delta variant is more dangerous.
"This delta variant is thought to be extremely contagious, much more contagious than the original variations of the COVID virus or SARS. COVID, as its official name is, and it's thought now to be about as contagious as chickenpox is," he said.
Mauney says in North Carolina, parents can sue if their child gets sick from an unvaccinated teacher.
"The answer to that question is yes," Mauney said. "The North Carolina Supreme Court said that if you negligently transmit a disease on to someone else, you can be held liable under the regular rules of negligence in North Carolina for that."
In 1920, the decision in the Crowell v. Crowell case established that principle. According to Mauney, it's been used many times in North Carolina courtrooms.
"What that means is that if you are not following what the law calls ordinary care — meaning using reasonable care — and how you're going about your interactions with people today, in the midst of a pandemic, that you can be held liable for money damages as a result of that," said Mauney.
How would this stand in court? Mauney tells us it all depends on the evidence and the jury.
"In our context here, that means are you using hand sanitizer? Are you wearing a mask? Are you vaccinated? And the jury would be asked whether or not the person with COVID had been acting in a reasonable way," he said.
VERIFY is dedicated to helping the public distinguish between true and false information. The VERIFY team, with help from questions submitted by the audience, tracks the spread of stories or claims that need clarification or correction. Have something you want VERIFIED? Text us at 704-329-3600 or visit /verify.