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Cruise Passengers May Face Uphill Fight on Coronavirus Claims

March 25, 2020, 7:45 PM

Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. was hit with another suit by Grand Princess passengers alleging the company knew but failed to inform them that they were at risk of being infected with the new coronavirus aboard the ship, which was infected from two previous passengers who came down with symptoms of Covid-19.

And while more coronavirus suits against the cruise industry are likely, with potentially 20 to 30 cases being filed, the plaintiffs will face an uphill battle, a plaintiffs’ attorney who specializes in cruise litigation told Bloomberg Law.

The suit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, is the fifth action filed against the cruise line by passengers allegedly exposed to the virus on board the Grand Princess.

There are very few recoverable damages for passengers who died, because they will be limited by the Death on the High Seas Act, and non-death passenger claims are very limited because many of the passengers are retirees who can’t claim loss of income, attorney Jim Walker with Walker & O’Neill in Miami said.

And plaintiffs will also face evidentiary problems as well, Walker said. They will need to be able to show that they were tested and that they were infected on the ship, rather than buses or planes that transported them home.

The complaint filed Tuesday alleges that Princess Cruise was aware that at least two passengers who disembarked the ship on Feb. 21, 2020, in San Francisco had symptoms of the coronavirus.

By continuing to sail with 3,000 passengers on board, including 62 who were also on the prior voyage, the cruise line exposed the plaintiffs to actual risk of immediate physical injury, the complaint alleges.

The plaintiffs, Jeffrey Jones, Anabel Jones, and Eddy Castellanos, boarded the ship in San Francisco on Feb. 21, 2020, and were quarantined on board through March 10, 2020, when the passengers were transferred to various air force bases across the country, the complaint alleges.

Princess Cruise announced March 12 that it would voluntarily pause global operations of its 18 cruise ships for two months, affected voyages departing March 12 to May 10.

The company said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation, but that it “has been sensitive to the difficulties the Covid-19 outbreak has caused to our guests and crew.”

“Our response throughout this process has focused on the well-being of our guests and crew within the parameters dictated to us by the government agencies involved and the evolving medical understanding of this new illness.”

Cause of Action: Negligence, gross negligence.

Relief: Punitive damages.

Attorneys: Simmrin Law Group represents the plaintiffs.

The case is Jones v. Princess Cruise Lines Ltd., C.D. Cal., No. 20-cv-02727, 3/24/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at PHayes@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com

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