Publix must respond to a lawsuit claiming a Miami Beach store employee died from COVID-19 last April because he was restricted from wearing a mask, a judge says.
The ruling Friday by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Carlos Lopez follows pleadings by the supermarket giant that the dispute must be handled as a workers’ compensation claim rather than a lawsuit.
Lopez did not elaborate on his decision that favors the estate of Gerardo Gutierrez, who was 70 when he died from the virus. Publix, which tried to have the litigation thrown out before it got very far, now must respond to it by Feb. 25.
Gutierrez died one month after working at the deli counter for two days next to a co-worker who had symptoms of the disease, the litigation claims. The estate blames Publix for then banning Gutierrez and other employees from wearing masks, charging the business feared scaring its customers.