A Florida couple aboard the ship that docked in California Monday with 21 confirmed coronavirus patients is suing Carnival Corp.’s Princess Cruise Lines, saying the company put passengers in danger.
Ronald and Eva Weissberger of Florida’s Broward County are seeking more than $1 million in damages, according to their complaint filed in Los Angeles federal court.
The couple claims the company continued the voyage even after it learned that passengers on a previous sailing of the same ship had shown coronavirus symptoms.
With more than 3,500 aboard the Grand Princess, Monday’s suit may be the first of many. But at least one lawyer says winning such cases will be an uphill battle.
“It’s almost an act of god, this virus,” said Jason Lohr, a San Francisco-based plaintiffs’ lawyer. “It’ll be difficult to articulate a duty the cruise line could’ve had given the nature of a pandemic.”
The Grand Princess announced March 4 it was cutting short the cruise and returning to San Francisco. But the ship was then forced to circle off the coast, while state and federal officials searched for a place where it could be brought to land without infecting people nearby.
Princess Cruise Lines also operated the Diamond Princess cruise, which was quarantined for a time in Yokohama, Japan, as more than 700 people tested positive for coronavirus.
“It would only stand to reason, that having experienced such a traumatic outbreak on board one of its vessels less than a month prior to the current voyage on board the Grand Princess, that the defendant would have learned to take all necessary precautions to keep its passengers, crew and the general public safe,” according to the complaint.
The Weissbergers alleged the company didn’t have adequate screening protocols in place before the trip.
Princess said it had not received the lawsuit and couldn’t comment.
“Our response throughout this process has focused on well-being of our guests and crew within the parameters mandated on us by the government agencies involved and the evolving medical understanding of this new illness,” the company said in an email.
To win their suit, the Weissbergers will have to prove that Princess Cruise Lines had a duty to protect its passengers from the coronavirus; that it had notice of the risk of its transmission; that the company breached its duty; and that its failure caused the couple’s harm, Lohr said.
“The duty is going to be a big issue in this case,” Lohr said. “They’re going to have to prove that the cruise line, in addition to having a safe boat, had a duty to protect passengers from this new virus.”
The case is Weissberger v. Princess Cruise Lines Ltd., 2:20-cv-02267, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles).
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