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Cruises are notorious for the Norovirus. However, recently, the Covid-19 outbreak spreading across the world has passengers by the thousands on a cruise ship feeling slightly uneasy.
In 2020, the California federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against Princess Cruise Lines for emotional distress from the fear of getting exposed to the Covid-19 virus.
Princess Cruise Lines, headquartered in Santa Clarita, is the second-largest cruise line in the world and is owned by Carnival Corporation. The company launched its first cruise ship in 1965, the name of Princess Pat. However, the company had to discontinue the ship from service since it was not fit for tropical cruising.
I was replacing her as Princess Italia, which cruised Alaska for two years before retiring from service. Soon, Princess Cruise Lines chartered its third ship naming it Princess Carla. In 1974, the world’s largest shipping company, P&O, acquired Princess Cruises. The Spirit of London ship became part of the Princess fleet.
After acquiring several shipping companies, tour operators, and some of the largest ships in the world, Princess Cruise Lines merged with Carnival Corporation. This cemented the company into becoming one of the largest cruise ship companies in the world.
In March 2020, the cruise passengers witnessed tragedy when the Grand Princess was not allowed entry into San Francisco. The 2,400 passengers on board faced a daunting experience trapped on the ship for days with the COVID-19 virus spreading fast.
After waiting, the ship got access to a dock in Oakland, California, where the passengers had to stay in quarantine. Soon after, a law firm filed a US lawsuit against an entity regarding Covid-19. They alleged that the cruise ship had allowed passengers to embark on the cruise while knowing the potential risk of the virus.
The lawsuit also stated that passengers from a previous cruise trip were allowed to enter the Grand Princess even when they had symptoms of Covid-19. A couple soon filed claims for $1 million for putting the family’s life at serious risk and causing emotional trauma.
In July 2020, a Federal judge dismissed the lawsuit against Grand Princess for emotional distress from the fear of Covid-19. Judge Gary Klausner stated that allowing passengers to get compensation for emotional pain from the fear of potential Covid-19 exposure without any symptoms would create huge concern over unlimited liability.
He was concerned this could be normalized at other places that people visit, like restaurants, parks, clubs, and more. Ronald and Eva Weissberger of Florida represented the plaintiffs against the passenger cruise ship. They disagreed with the ruling stating that the law firm would file for an appeal.
The legal team argued that businesses with potential virus risk in their premises are a cause for concern and shouldn’t invite people into their doors. However, the lawyer stated that Princess Cruise knew the potential threat to passengers and invited them on the ship for a cruise. The legal team compared how gyms, restaurants, and other places will not invite individuals inside if the site is under a potential virus spread.
The legal team did not agree with the judge’s unlimited and unpredictable liability statement. They did not believe the liabilities would follow if the judge had announced the verdict in their favor since most businesses would close their operations. They would not invite people if their working space or property were at risk of Covid-19 spread.
Several lawsuits followed the first-ever US lawsuit against a cruise ship related to Covid-19. Many people came forward to seek legal action against other cruise ships. One of the lawsuits included a passenger aboard the Ruby Princess, which embarked from Australia set for a New Zealand cruise.
The passenger took legal action against the cruise ship because it had 158 sick passengers, with 13 registering high temperatures from their previous voyage. A total of 9 passengers got tested for Covid-19, and two were Covid positive.
The plaintiff claimed that the cruise ship had started embarking passengers just a few hours after the disembarkation of previous voyage passengers. The time duration in between was not enough to sanitize the ship properly.
Another class-action lawsuit occurred the same year where the crew members filed a lawsuit in District Court against their cruise line for the lack of proper protective equipment putting them at risk of contracting Covid-19.
There are many challenges that a plaintiff might face when they want to seek legal action against a cruise line. For one, the tickets of a cruise mention in fine print that ticketholders can not take a class action against a cruise company. However, that was recently revoked by the courts stating that the acceptance of a ticket immediately constitutes the right to file class-action lawsuits.
Secondly, most cruise companies enjoy a foreign status meaning the legal procedure for such entities is different, allowing them to avoid regulations imposed by the United States.
The maritime law also restricts recoveries to only financial losses on the death of an individual at sea. This law is very opaque, and the cruise ship industry can enjoy the privileges that come with such laws making it very challenging for plaintiffs to recover damages.
Losing a loved one while on the high seas is a depressing and heart-wrenching moment for anyone, and Ehline Law understands the pain and suffering you are going through.
If you’ve gotten ill, injured, or have lost someone during a cruise ship, contact us at (213) 596-9642 and speak to our Los Angeles Cruise Ship Lawyer today! Our lawyers have excellent experience dealing with cruise lines and can help you with your case. Call us or visit any of our law offices in California.
Michael is a managing partner at the nationwide Ehline Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, APLC. He’s an inactive Marine and became a lawyer in the California State Bar Law Office Study Program, later receiving his J.D. from UWLA School of Law. Michael has won some of the world’s largest motorcycle accident settlements.