July 15, 2020 – Coral Princess Passenger Says Carnival Set Sail Despite Knowing of COVID-19 Risk
A passenger aboard the Carnival-operated Coral Princess alleges the embattled cruise line decided to depart from Valparaiso, Chile in March despite being well aware of the dangers posed by the novel coronavirus—and despite two other ships, the Grand Princess and Diamond Princess, having already been hit with deadly outbreaks.
“By allowing the Coral Princess to depart on March 5, 2020, [Carnival and Princess Cruise Lines] ignored all warnings that vessels continuing to sail would likely face the same fate,” the 42-page lawsuit, filed July 13 in California, alleges. “Defendants’ decision to sail the Coral Princess with no precautions or extra sanitization measures in place after the outbreak onboard the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess shows the failure of the Defendants to take appropriate action, thus unnecessarily risking the health and safety of all passengers and crew on both vessels.”
Carnival and Princess went so far as to share with Coral Princess passengers a letter from a senior physician who assured that the ship was “probably one of the safest places in the world to be at this time,” the suit says. According to the plaintiff, however, she and her husband were among those forced to spend almost an additional three weeks in a cabin on a vessel filled with sick passengers.
“Defendants put Plaintiff and the Class in actual physical danger of contracting a deadly virus, kept that information from them as long as they could, and then forced them into the only option that remained at that point—staying trapped in a 21-page room for weeks on end,” the case says. “Instead of a first-hand look at South American ports, Plaintiff and the Class got a first-hand look at ambulance and morgue workers carting gurneys off the ship they were trapped on for weeks.”
The lawsuit, which can be found here, says more than 130 people on board the Coral Princess tested positive for coronavirus and at least five passengers and one crew member died.
Nine plaintiffs have filed a proposed class action lawsuit in which they look to represent all passengers who were exposed to COVID-19 aboard Carnival Corporation’s Grand Princess cruise vessel that sailed from San Francisco to Hawaii between February 21 and March 10, 2020.
According to the lawsuit, defendants Carnival Corporation & PLC, Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. and Fairline Shipping International Corporation, Ltd. allowed the voyage to proceed without proper sanitization or medical screening measures and despite at least one passenger on a prior leg of the trip having reported experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to medical personnel aboard the Grand Princess.
“Defendants’ choice not to warn Plaintiffs and the Class of their actual risk of harm in being exposed to COVID-19, either prior to boarding or while they were already on board, in light of the prior passenger who came down with symptoms and later died, along with others from that prior voyage that exhibited symptoms, and the crew member who disembarked during this voyage due to COVID-19-related illness, constitutes a failure to provide even a modicum of care to Plaintiffs and the Class,” the lawsuit says.
The 24-page complaint out of California alleges that the companies became aware of at least one passenger who experienced COVID-19 symptoms onboard the Grand Princess around February 19, a little more than a week after the vessel sailed from San Francisco to Mexico. While Carnival Chief Medical Officer Grant Tarling, MD, MPH said the companies believed the passenger was already infected with the virus when he boarded the Grand Princess on February 11, the defendants, according to the suit, had in place at the time “no effective passenger medical screening methods.”
Per the case, the passenger sought medical treatment onboard the Grand Princess on February 20, reporting that he had suffered from “acute respiratory distress” for roughly a week before seeking help. The lawsuit argues that this particular incident would have triggered mandatory reporting of a “hazardous condition” under federal law governing such aboard sea bearing vessels.
The lawsuit goes on to say that at least three other passengers aboard the same Grand Princess trip experienced COVID-19 symptoms and likely exposed dozens of others to the virus. According to the suit, one passenger on the defendants’ February 11 Mexico voyage died “shortly after disembarking,” reportedly the first COVID-19-related death in California.
When the Grand Princess arrived at port in San Francisco following the Mexico voyage, approximately 62 passengers, “at least two of whom were ill,” and more than 1,000 crewmembers remained onboard to continue on to the ship’s next destination, Hawaii, the lawsuit says. Prior to embarking on the cruise's second leg, the defendants “did not implement any COVID-19 screening or medical examination procedures for crew or passengers” who remained onboard to travel to Hawaii, nor implement effective measures to sanitize or disinfect the ship in between voyages, the lawsuit alleges.
Additionally, the defendants failed to notify passengers scheduled to travel aboard the Grand Princess to Hawaii that an individual on a prior trip had reported COVID-19 symptoms, and that those who remained on the vessel had been exposed to and/or may be carrying the virus, the case alleges.
On February 25, in the middle of the plaintiffs’ Hawaii trip, Carnival and Princess emailed those who disembarked in San Francisco in February with an alert regarding their potential exposure to COVID-19, the complaint says. Those who were still aboard the vessel en route to Hawaii, however, received no such notice, according to the suit.
Roughly three days after the Grand Princess left Hawaii, passengers received a health advisory from Tarling regarding their potential exposure to COVID-19, the suit continues. Passengers were informed both that the ship would head back to San Francisco, and not to its intended destination of Ensenda, Mexico, and that those who remained onboard from the prior leg of the ship’s journey were to begin self-quarantining, per the case.
It was the COVID-19 outbreak onboard the Grand Princess that led California Governor Gavin Newsom to declare a state of emergency on March 4, the lawsuit says. After the governor’s declaration, the state reportedly refused to allow the Grand Princess to port in San Francisco, and directed the ship to drop anchor just off the coast. At a press conference, Governor Newsom said 11 passengers and 10 crewmembers aboard the Grand Princess experienced COVID-19 symptoms, according to the case.
On March 9, the ship was escorted by the Coast Guard into San Francisco Bay, docking at the Port of Oakland, and met by ambulances and medical professionals, the suit says. The following day, after an on-board CDC check, passengers were finally allowed to disembark before being shuttled to Travis Air Force Base for additional quarantine, per the complaint.
In all, the plaintiffs argue that neither they nor other passengers would have sailed on the Grand Princess had they known others on the vessel’s prior voyage had suffered and/or been exposed to COVID-19. One plaintiff claims she was infected, diagnosed and treated for COVID-19 as a “direct and proximate” result of the defendants’ negligence. Further, the case alleges the plaintiffs and proposed class members were traumatized by the fear of developing COVID-19 after being isolated aboard the Grand Princess and then confined for two weeks at Travis Air Force Base.
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