Practice Tip: be aware that claims can be made by employees outside of the healthcare setting for infections if there is proof that the infection was contracted on the job

In 1975 the Court of Appeals rendered a decision in the case of Middleton v Coxsackie Correctional Facility, 38 N.Y.2d 130 (1975). A corrections officer brought a claim for tuberculosis which he asserted he contracted when exposed to an infected inmate. The claimant worked in the facility’s cannery and was in close contact with an inmate “who coughed persistently and was later found to be tubercular.” The carrier argued that the claimant did not sustain an accidental injury under the Workers’ Compensation Law. The court pointed out that while the claim did not constitute an occupational disease as tuberculosis is not a condition which naturally and unavoidably arises out of employment as a corrections officer, the claimant was still able to pursue the claim as an accidental injury. The court held in part that “the persistent coughs by the inmate with active tuberculosis over a period of three or four months, for two or three hours a day, while within a foot from claimant, at times next to a steam table in a cannery, followed by claimant’s tubercular breakdown” provided sufficient facts to conclude that the events were sufficiently definite in time to constitute an accidental injury. There was also no dispute that the inmate in question suffered from tuberculosis.

Given the current coronavirus outbreak, claims will be made for work-related accidental injuries. To the extent that employees are in occupations such as the healthcare industry which place them at risk for exposure, there is a greater likelihood of establishing a claim. However, for the more general working population, the widespread transmission of the virus, both in occupational settings and outside of occupational settings, will make it difficult to establish a claim in the absence of convincing evidence such as that in Middleton.

If you have a complex claim involving a Covid-19 claim and would like our office to consider the issues involved, contact David Niefer at or any of the attorneys in our office.  If you would like a training session on this or any area of the Workers’ Compensation Law, please do not hesitate to contact our firm.


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This information is provided for general guidance only.  This information should not be used as a substitute for consultation with legal counsel.  Each case presents unique facts requiring individual analysis.