Elderly passengers sue Princess Cruise Lines for more than $1 million after being stuck on coronavirus-stricken ship near San Francisco

  • A second lawsuit in regards to Princess Cruise Lines’ handling of its coronavirus-stricken Grand Princess ship off the coast of San Francisco made it to federal court on Thursday, claiming gross negligence by the cruise line.
  • The passengers who filed the lawsuit are “elderly with underlying medical conditions,” which are both populations with higher risk of dying as a result of the novel coronavirus.
  • The lawsuit asks for more than $1 million in damages, claiming that Princess Cruises “did not have proper screening protocol in place to minimize the risk of exposure of the disease.”
  • The Grand Princess situation came not long after the bungled quarantine of the Diamond Princess, also owned by Princess Cruises, in which the ship began with 10 coronavirus cases and ended up with more than 700.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Another lawsuit in response to Princess Cruise Lines’ handling of its coronavirus-stricken Grand Princess ship near San Francisco hit federal court on Thursday, with two passengers claiming gross negligence by the cruise line in its response to the “infected” ship. 

The lawsuit came while the two, who are “elderly with underlying medical conditions,” were still aboard the ship during its days-long lockdown, and claimed an apparent “lack of any care” by Princess Cruises. The majority of people who have died of coronavirus, as of earlier this month, were elderly or had preexisting health issues

Ohio residents Steven and Tryphena Kurivial filed the lawsuit, becoming the second party to sue in response to Princess Cruises’ approach to coronavirus fears on the recent sailing of its Grand Princess ship. The ship boarded in San Francisco on February 21, after passengers aboard the ship for the previous 11 days were found to have the novel coronavirus — one passenger died, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention previously told Business Insider that two others tested positive for it after going home. 

The situation in California came not long after the bungled and highly publicized February quarantine of the Diamond Princess, another ship owned by Princess Cruises, on which coronavirus ran rampant off the coast of Japan — beginning with 10 cases and burgeoning to more than 700. 

As of this publishing, the coronavirus has infected more than 136,000 people worldwide and killed more than 5,000. Princess Cruises said this week that it will suspend operations for two months as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and Carnival, its sister line under Carnival Corp., announced new protocols on Thursday that include additional screening and passenger bans. 

The lawsuit from the Kurivials is — word for word, aside from names and residences — the same as the one filed on March 9 by Florida residents Eva and Ronald Weissberger, who were also on the Grand Princess as it floated in limbo off the coast of San Francisco. Both were filed by attorneys Michael Simmrin and Debi Chalik, who did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for further comment, including if more passenger lawsuits are on the way. 

The lawsuit asks for “in excess of” $1 million in damages in response to the Kurivials’ risk of being exposed to the coronavirus on the ship, claiming Princess Cruises was aware at least one of the passengers from the previous voyage had symptoms. Yet, the lawsuit said, the company “made the conscious decision to continue sailing” with 3,000 new passengers “on an infected ship.” 

“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,” the lawsuit said. “Unfortunately, the Defendant Princess did no such thing, which is why Plaintiffs are now at actual risk of immediate physical injury proximately caused by the Defendant’s negligence.”

Because 62 passengers on the Grand Princess for the Kurivials’ trip were aboard the prior sailing, the ship turned around instead of sailing toward Mexico as planned with its 2,422 passengers and 1,111 crew members. But the ship wasn’t allowed to dock in the city, with the US Coast Guard flying tests out to the boat via helicopter last Thursday. Passengers were allowed to roam on the ship until the tests came back Friday with 21 positive results, leading the cruise line to ask passengers to stay in their rooms. 

Passengers were then stuck on the ship until it docked at the Port of Oakland on Monday, with those who had tested positive going to local hospitals and an expectation that it would take days to get everyone off the ship. During the lull before the ship docked, President Donald Trump initially said he’d like to keep passengers on board.

“I like the numbers being where they are,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News. “I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault.”

The lawsuit claimed negligence against Princess Cruises in failing to have proper screening protocols in place before the trip despite the Diamond Princess outbreak, saying passengers “were simply asked to fill out a piece of paper confirming they were not sick.”

“Not one passenger was questioned, let alone examined in any capacity,” the lawsuit read. “Incredibly, not one of those sixty two passengers or crew members who were mixing and mingling with the infected prior passengers were ever examined during the instant voyage until being tested for the virus on Thursday March 5, 2020, two weeks after the ship sailed.”

The Kurivials were aboard the ship when the lawsuit was filed this week, it said, and had been anchored off the coast of San Francisco since March 4. The lawsuit also said Princess Cruises sent emails to passengers on the previous sailing on February 25 to notify them of a potential coronavirus exposure, but that the Kurivials weren’t given the same information or they “would have disembarked at the first port of call” in Hawaii the next day — which a crew member did as a result of the coronavirus, the lawsuit said. The Kurivials weren’t informed of the departure. 

Had the two known about the risk before sailing, the lawsuit said, they would have never boarded at all. 

The lawsuit described Princess Cruises as having a “lackadaisical approach to the safety” of the Kurivials, and said the line’s actions are an “extreme departure” from “what a reasonably careful cruise line would do” given their age and unspecified underlying medical conditions. 

“Defendant Princess chose to place profits over the safety of its passengers, crew and the general public in continuing to operate business as usual, despite their knowledge of the actual risk of injury to Plaintiffs,” the lawsuit said. 

Princess Cruises told Business Insider that it has “not been served with any lawsuit relating to this matter,” and that the company won’t comment on pending litigation. The statement sent to Business Insider mirrors one given to CNN in response to the Weissbergers’ similar claims. 

“Princess Cruises has been sensitive to the difficulties the COVID-19 outbreak has caused to our guests and crew,” the statement said. “Our response throughout this process has focused on the 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.”

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