According to USA TODAY, another proposed class-action lawsuit has been filed against a cruise line as a result of mishandled COVID-19 crisis responses; Costa Cruises, a Carnival subsidiary, allegedly neglected to inform Costa Luminosa passengers about potential coronavirus exposures and failed to take necessary precautions to protect those aboard. Passengers “were dragged across the Atlantic in a ticking coronavirus time bomb, which to date has resulted in at least seven deaths,” said maritime attorney Michael Winkleman, a Miami lawyer.
The lawsuit, filed in Florida on Tuesday, April 7, says a 68-year-old Italian passenger from a previous voyage, who disembarked the ship on Feb. 29, exhibited coronavirus symptoms. That passenger later tested positive for the coronavirus, then died. But the cruise line failed to disclose the dead passenger’s diagnosis or condition ahead of the ship’s subsequent sailing, which departed on March 5, according to the filing. The suit also argues Costa ultimately exposed more than 2,000 other passengers to the virus.
In a separate suit, Paul Turner, another Costa Luminosa passenger, is suing Costa on his own, as well as for other passengers, in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida. That lawsuit claims that the ship was not adequately cleaned between voyages, and that the company disingenuously assured passengers the ship was not affected by the virus, and that no concern was warranted.
However, when the coronavirus outbreak occurred on the ship, it was denied entry at multiple ports of call. One elderly couple was sent to the hospital and confirmed COVID-19 positive after the ship finally docked in Puerto Rico on March 8th. They were residents of Northern Italy, which had been a coronavirus hot spot.
The lawsuit references several cruise ships that gave the industry warning about the coronavirus threat, including the Grand Princess and Diamond Princess, which each faced coronavirus outbreaks. “It would only stand to reason that, knowing of these prior traumatic outbreaks on two of its sister company’s vessels less than a month prior to the subject voyage on the Costa Luminosa, that Costa would have learned to take all necessary precautions to keep its passengers, crew and the general public safe,” according to the lawsuit. “This likely would have meant that the voyage, in its entirety, would have been cancelled (notably the entire global cruise industry was suspended roughly one week after the Costa Luminosa sailing).”
Two Grand Princess passengers also filed a lawsuit against Princess last month alleging that cruise line’s fault in mishandling passengers’ exposures to the coronavirus outbreak on that ship.
However, as we have discussed in prior posts, some experts believe these suits face an uphill battle, given numerous restrictive terms of service buried in passengers’ paperwork, coupled with some antiquated maritime laws that predate the sinking of the RMS Titanic by half a century. Many offshore death cases may be limited to losses related to physical injuries, not emotional or psychological damage. Some will argue that the Death on the High Seas Act (“DOHSA”) prevents survivors from recovering damages for their emotional distress or pain and suffering when a loved one dies on a ship at sea. Additionally, the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851(“LLA”) may be argued to allow shipowners to limit their liability to the value of the ship and pending freight post-casualty. Under the contract terms, we expect the cruise lines to argue that class actions are not allowed, and that statutes of limitations can be limited to as short as a year.
At Herd Law Firm, PLLC, we address these specialized kinds of claims in the areas of personal injury law and maritime law. If you or a loved one are a passenger or crewmember who contracted coronavirus or was injured while on a vessel on navigable waters, you may have a claim. We would be happy to discuss your situation and advise how you may be able to recover the compensation you deserve. Contact our firm at Charles.Herd@HerdLawFirm.com or 713-955-3699 for a free evaluation today.
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