Can Businesses Sue Patrons For Damages Who Violate Mask Mandate?
A business can get fined up to $1,000 if someone is breaking the new mask mandate. Can a business sue a violator for damages if they were caught on camera breaking the rule? Here's what a local lawyer has to say about it.
Last Monday another mandate went into effect throughout the entire state. Basically, if unvaccinated people are allowed in your establishment then everyone must mask up. It was also reported that any business caught breaking the rules would be hit with a very stiff fine of $1,000. It's a bill that not a lot of small businesses are able to afford right now after the year they have had.
So, what happens when a business puts up a sign and enforces a mask police at entry but can't police every single person? If patrons are caught breaking the mask policy and the business gets hit with a fine can they sue the patrons responsible for damages?
I asked local attorney, Alex Mainetti from Mainetti & Mainetti and here's what he had to say:
"This is a good question. So what the question really boils down to is can a business sue a patron for damages (fines) they incur as a result of a patron’s non-compliance with applicable law. At first glance I would think yes, but after further thought I am thinking no the business could not successfully sue the patron.
For example if a patron goes into a bar and is served a drink under the age of 21 the bar could be fined by the liquor authority of the state of NY for serving patrons under 21 years of age. This would apply even if the bar thought the underage patron was over 21 or if the patron had a fake ID. It’s called strict liability. This is why many bars “Card” patrons at the door to see if they’re 21 to avoid potential of underage patrons being served alcohol. In this situation it’s very unlikely the bar could successfully sue the patron for any fines it incurs for underage patrons sneaking in and drinking underage, because the law requires (the establishment) to not serve anyone under 21 (no matter what, no excuses).
The Law is putting the strict responsibility on the Bar not the patron. In other words, the law is putting the burden on the Bar to takes steps to prevent this situation, not the other way around. However, the patron could also be arrested and/or fined for drinking under age, but that doesn’t alleviate the bar’s responsibility/liability.
Similarly with the mask mandate, to avoid the fines the bar would basically have to have a “Mask Bouncer” at the door. No mask, no entry. If they don’t have a mask bouncer they’re running the risk of falling afoul of the law when someone walks in with No Mask. The law is more aimed at the businesses in my opinion and the law is putting the onus on the bar to enforce it in any way they deem fit within the confounds of law of course. It is possible that the patron could also be fined as well, but the establishment would still be in violation of the law for failing to fulfill their obligation to only allow masked patrons inside. So I would say no the business would be unsuccessful in suing the patron."
Unfortunately, the burden is put on these businesses. There is not much they can do besides try to enforce the rules as best they can.
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