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Coronavirus and Workers' Compensation

While there may be circumstances that would lead to a different result, a coronavirus patient would be unlikely to be able to claim coverage under South Dakota’s Workers' Compensation system. This is due, in no small part, to the definition of an occupational disease found in SDCL § 62-8-1(6):

a disease peculiar to the occupation in which the employee was engaged and due to causes in excess of the ordinary hazards of employment and includes any disease due or attributable to exposure to or contact with any radioactive material by an employee in the course of employment;

The South Dakota Supreme Court has ruled that, for purposes of workers' compensation benefits for an occupational disease, the condition complained of must be caused by a distinctive feature of the claimant's occupation, not by the environmental conditions of the claimant's workplace.  Sauder v. Parkview Care Center,740 N.W.2d 878, 2007 S.D. 103. This creates a substantial hurdle for coronavirus sufferers to successfully obtain workers’ compensation coverage in South Dakota, if and when they test positive.

March 11, 2020