Local attorney explains possible penalties for ignoring COVID-19 regulations

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- When discussing a youth football coach in Washington County who was positive for COVID while at a scrimmage, Washington County Executive Josh Schoemann said that wasn't the only situation like that they've seen.

"Unfortunately, it’s something we’re running into and that’s why we wanted to be able to talk to you, " he said, "Is to urge people to stop exactly this kind of behavior. If you’re sick, stay home, period."

Last week, the Washington Ozaukee Health Department said parents were knowingly sending kids to school with COVID.

“It’s largely being driven by families and individuals being irresponsible," said Health Director Kirsten Johnson.

"We have had people call and say I got COVID and then it’s, 'Where did you get it? Who else have you been in contact with?' said Patrick O'Neill, an attorney at PKSD, a personal injury law firm.

He said in order to take any type of legal action against someone who is suspected of giving another person COVID, the first step would be determining if they were negligent.

"If you’re going out to a public place you know you’re COVID, you tested positive, you’re not taking precautions, that by itself kind of the definition of negligence," he said.

However, he said the next step is determining causation.

"Correlation is not the same as causation. If I was at that same bar of that person with COVID-19, how many people were in the bar? Who else have you come in contact with, so always in any negligence claim, there’s the negligence, and then there’s the next step, what did that cause what damages did that cause," he said, "In order to get to damage, the cause question is, is that substantial factor, so more likely than not, did that person who was COVID positive, knew they were COVID positive, came into contact with you or somebody else and then you’ve become COVID positive? Are they the ones that transferred that to you? And that’s a very difficult thing to prove," he said.

O'Neill said it's different in a situation like in a nursing home when employees are the only people interacting with the residents living there.

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