Costa Crociere S.P.A. and Costa Cruise Lines Inc. are the defendants in a proposed class action lawsuit that alleges the companies put more than 2,000 passengers’ lives at risk by making the decision to proceed with a 20-day transatlantic cruise despite knowing at least one individual on a prior voyage displayed coronavirus symptoms.
After the cruise set sail on March 5, 2020, the defendants allegedly concealed from passengers that two individuals who displayed coronavirus symptoms required a medical evacuation during the first stop of the trip, according to the 36-page lawsuit. The cruise line then put the Costa Luminosa's occupants in further danger by making the decision to wait two days before ordering passengers to isolate in their rooms after finding out that the couple who had disembarked had tested positive for the coronavirus, the case says.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants, who are owned by Carnival Corporation, made the “knowing and intentional” decision to set sail despite being aware of both "the tremendous risk faced by all the passengers (and crew) aboard” and reports of coronavirus outbreaks onboard two other cruise liners in February 2020.
“As a result of Defendant Costa’s grossly negligent approach to the safety of the passengers on board the Costa Luminosa, its passengers and crew aboard the Costa Luminosa were at an actual risk of immediate physical injury and death,” the complaint claims, describing the situation created by the defendants onboard the ship as “a ticking coronavirus time bomb.”
On February 24, 2020, the Costa Luminosa embarked from Fort Lauderdale, Florida on a cruise set to return on March 5 before departing again on another voyage, the lawsuit begins. According to the case, a 68-year-old Italian passenger was evacuated from the ship in the Cayman Islands during the February trip after displaying symptoms of coronavirus and a stroke. The passenger eventually tested positive for coronavirus and died from the condition, the lawsuit says.
The night before the Costa Luminosa was to set sail for another cruise on March 5, the case continues, the defendants sent an email informing passengers that the World Health Organization (WHO) had raised the COVID-19 alert level, with some countries boosting precautionary measures by banning entry into their territories. The suit says Costa affirmed to passengers that the company “remains in constant contact with all the local authorities of the countries called by its vessels,” ostensibly in order to “make the most appropriate decisions” and roll out “the most adequate measures” in ensuring the highest level of safety possible for passengers.
In doing so, Costa “represented to its passengers that it was holding itself to the highest standard of care” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the lawsuit argues. Yet on March 5, the day the Costa Luminosa was set to embark again from Fort Lauderdale, the defendants allegedly allowed new passengers onboard without adequately sanitizing the ship. More specifically, Costa failed to incorporate UV lights into its filtration systems or utilize antimicrobial sanitizing equipment, the lawsuit says, much less call in a third-party indoor environmental safety professional to verify that the vessel was clean and reasonably safe for passengers and crew.
The case goes on to claim that passengers who contacted Costa with regard to the safety of the Costa Luminosa amid the coronavirus pandemic were assured by the defendants that there was no need for concern. Costa added, however, that passengers “would not be reimbursed” should they cancel their March 5 trip, the lawsuit says.
Before boarding the March 5 voyage, Costa relied on non-medical professionals to determine whether prospective passengers were medically fit to board the vessel based on answers to questions pertaining to whether they experienced any coronavirus symptoms, the lawsuit claims. According to the case, the defendants failed to deny entry to passengers and crew members who displayed coronavirus symptoms and/or had a history of travel to China or “other known exposure.”
Costa Luminosa passengers were never informed by the defendants that they faced a significantly increased risk of exposure to COVID-19, the lawsuit alleges. Had passengers been made aware of the level of danger, they would have never boarded the ship and/or never contracted COVID-19, the case says.
According to the suit, a coronavirus outbreak occurred on the voyage “as should have been anticipated.” The case describes the outbreak as severe enough that the Costa Luminosa was denied entry into multiple ports-of-call by a number of countries’ governments.
On March 8, the lawsuit goes on, the Costa Luminosa docked in Puerto Rico, where an elderly Italian couple was “rushed from the vessel to a hospital” after displaying coronavirus symptoms. According to the case, the individuals were residents of Northern Italy, a region that experienced a deadly escalation in coronavirus cases. The defendants, the suit claims, either “knowingly or negligently” failed to inform passengers that the Italian couple had disembarked in Puerto Rico after displaying symptoms.
After the Italian passengers disembarked in Puerto Rico—and after the ship was denied port entry in Antigua—Costa made the decision to allow the Costa Luminosa to sail across the Atlantic for seven days to the Canary Islands despite knowing that at least two passengers had displayed coronavirus symptoms, the case says.
The lawsuit alleges the defendants falsely assured passengers in a March 9 letter that the Costa Luminosa was equipped with 24-hour-per-day medical facilities. One plaintiff alleges that while he and other passengers attempted to visit the ship’s medical facility, they learned it was only open between 8:30 and 11:00 AM and 5:00 to 8:00 PM.
According to the lawsuit, Costa was informed mid-voyage that the Italian couple who disembarked in Puerto Rico were the territory’s first positive COVID-19 cases. Despite this news, the defendants not only waited nearly a whole day before informing passengers of such by sliding a note under their doors but failed to instruct those on board the ship to isolate and/or quarantine “in direct violation” of CDC guidelines for ships managing suspected outbreaks, the suit says.The case further alleges Costa concealed coronavirus information from passengers by “blocking out news channels on stateroom TVs.”
“Remarkably,” the lawsuit claims, “media outlets were reporting about the coronavirus issues on the Costa Luminosa before Costa was informing its passengers.”
Noting that additional passengers on the March 5 voyage also developed severe coronavirus symptoms, the lawsuit charges that the defendants wholly failed to recognize the seriousness of the situation by refusing to quarantine those onboard. On March 19, the Costa Luminosa was allowed port entry in Marseille, France to allow passengers to disembark yet allowed those onboard to leave their staterooms without being provided any protective equipment or being instructed to stay further than six feet apart, the suit says.
“During the disembarkation process in Marseille, France, passengers, bunched in tight groups, were unloaded off the vessel and onto buses and held for hours before flights were arranged for passengers based on their country of residence,” the case says.
Those who disembarked in France were then forced to board a plane and risk further exposure to coronavirus, the lawsuit continues. The case argues that the forced two-week quarantine and physical symptoms displayed by some onboard the Costa Luminosa could have been avoided had they simply been given the chance to stay home and reschedule the cruise or cancel the trip subject to reasonably implementable policies and procedures. The lawsuit alleges Costa’s “negligent misconduct” was motivated by profit.
The case looks to represent those who were passengers aboard the Costa Luminosa cruises on February 24 and/or March 5, 2020.