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Princess Cites Dire Results If Those Without Covid Can Sue (1)

June 3, 2020, 6:23 PMUpdated: June 4, 2020, 6:16 PM

Princess Cruise Line Ltd. has asked the Central District of California to dismiss a number of lawsuits brought by Grand Princess passengers who never fell ill with Covid-19 symptoms, warning that such open-ended liability against it and other businesses would be a “cataclysmic result” for the recovering U.S. economy.

The U.S. Supreme Court has warned that infinite and unpredictable liability could result from the recognition of negligently inflicted emotional distress claims, Princess told the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California Tuesday.

That’s why the plaintiffs pursuing those claims must allege that they have suffered from symptoms of the virus they say they were exposed to, Princess said. The Chao family, and others in more than a dozen lawsuits pending before Judge R. Gary Klausner, haven’t alleged that they suffered coronavirus symptoms, so their claims should be dismissed, the company argued.

Princess’s parent company, Carnival Corp., has found itself in a war on multiple fronts. In addition to the personal injury lawsuits filed by upset cruise line passengers, it was accused last week of securities fraud by a group of investors of who say Carnival made false and misleading statements that resulted in a sharp stock drop.

The U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has also opened an inquiry into how the entertainment conglomerate handled the coronavirus outbreaks on board its ships.

If the court allows the passengers to advance their claims without any evidence of falling ill because of their time on the Grand Princess, then many other similar suits against other companies and businesses would follow, it said. That, in turn, would “threaten the ability of businesses to reopen and for the economy to resume,” the company said.

“The likelihood of endless liability for every business, church, school and other venue in America under Plaintiffs’ expansive theory is even more likely in the context of Covid-19, which is now known to be transmitted by asymptomatic individuals which no defendant could realistically detect with current testing limitations,” it said.

There are 24 cases related to the February 24 sailing of the Grand Princess alone, according to Princess’s motion. Some plaintiffs allege that they contracted Covid-19 and had to be hospitalized, which would make their claims safe from the company’s pending motion.

Others have filed wrongful death claims on behalf of passengers who died as a result of the virus. Recoverable damages for those claims are likely limited by the Death on the High Seas Act.

In addition to the individual lawsuits targeted Tuesday by Princess, there’s a proposed class action that wants to bring all 2,400 Grand Princess passengers—those who have contracted the virus and those who haven’t—into one large group. The plaintiffs there also updated their complaint against Princess on Tuesday. Princess hasn’t yet filed a major responsive pleading in that case.

The Simmran Law Group and Chalik and Chalik PA represent the Chaos and many other Grand Princess passengers suing Princess. Mary Alexander & Associates, PC and Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP represent the plaintiffs in the class action.

Maltzman & Partners PA represent Princess.

The case is Chao v. Princess Cruise Line Ltd., C.D. Cal., No. 20-cv-03314, motion to dismiss filed 6/2/20.

(Adds names of plaintiffs' counsel in class action to story published June 3. )

To contact the reporter on this story: Porter Wells in Washington at pwells@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Steven Patrick at spatrick@bloomberglaw.com

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