If someone contracts Covid-19 and can be traced to our organization’s premises or place where one of our activities took place, does our organization have any liability?
An individual may bring a claim against an organization under tort law or the Occupiers Liability Ordinance (Cap. 314) (the “OLO”) for failing to ensure that its premises were safe for visitors.
Under the OLO, an occupier owes the duty to take reasonable care to ensure the safety of its visitors using the premises. Reasonable care would include implementing the relevant guidelines issued by the HKSAR Government referred to in the answer to Question 1 above.
The issue of liability depends largely on the measures, if any, the organization took when it was known that there were community infections. For example, if the organization fails to sterilize its premises after a person known to have been contracted COVID-19 visited those premises, it may have breached its duties under the OLO. Even if a breach of duty is established, there must be a causal link between the occupier’s breach of duty and the COVID-19 infection.
The extent of the organization’s duty and the measures to be put in place will vary depending on the specific circumstances. For example, more stringent safety protocols and more supplies such as alcohol wipes, masks or soap etc. would be expected for activities targeted at children. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Organizations should also consider putting up warning signs around the premise warning visitors of any health and safety hazards (e.g. if any confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 have taken place in or around the area / premise).