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Princess Cruise Beats Coronavirus Exposure, Distress Claims

July 15, 2020, 3:09 PM

Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. won dismissal of claims by Grand Princess passengers who allege they were put at risk of exposure to coronavirus.

A person who manifests no physical symptoms can’t recover for negligent infliction of emotional distress for being exposed to a person with Covid-19, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California said Tuesday.

The claims arise out of the Covid-19 outbreak aboard the Grand Princess, which departed from San Francisco for Hawaii on Feb. 21, 2020.

The plaintiffs were passengers aboard that ship who had also been aboard a previous journey to Mexico during which at least two passengers developed symptoms of coronavirus.

They allege they suffered emotional distress due to fear of physical injury.

The claims fail under the U.S. Supreme Court’s “zone of danger” test, which limits recovery for emotional injury to plaintiffs who sustain a physical impact as a result of a defendant’s negligent conduct, or who are placed in immediate risk of physical harm by that conduct.

To allow a claim to go forward under the second prong of the zone of danger test without manifesting symptoms would lead to absurd results, the court said.

While a passenger exposed to an individual with Covid-19 could only recover under the first prong if they contracted the disease or manifested symptoms, under the plaintiffs’ proposed interpretation a passenger could recover without manifesting any symptoms if he pled the claim under the second prong. This interpretation would “swallow the rule,” the court said.

The ruling relates to 14 cases consolidated for dismissal.

The plaintiffs alleged Princess Cruise Lines breached a duty to ensure they wouldn’t be exposed to unreasonable risk of harm by failing to take precautions to keep them safe.

As of March 6, 2020, 21 passengers aboard the trip to Hawaii tested positive for coronavirus, the court said.

Judge R. Gary Klausner issued the ruling.

Simmrin Law Group and Chalik & Chalik PA represent the plaintiffs. Maltzman & Partners PA represent Princess.

For additional legal resources, visit Bloomberg Law In Focus: Coronavirus (Bloomberg Law Subscription).

The case is Weissberger v. Princess Cruise Lines Ltd., C.D. Cal., No. 20-cv-02267, 7/14/20.

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

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

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