Couple on Grand Princess Cruise Ship Sue for $1 Million Over Handling of Coronavirus Outbreak

March 10, 2020 Updated: March 10, 2020

A Florida couple aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship where 21 people have tested positive for coronavirus have sued the ship’s operator for $1 million, claiming that the company acted negligently by failing to protect passengers from the virus.

Ronald and Eva Weissberger, residents of Broward County, filed a lawsuit against Princess Cruise Lines on Monday, alleging that the company’s lack of screening procedures for coronavirus, or COVID-19, and failing to adequately warn passengers about potential exposure to the virus, had exposed the couple to “actual risk of immediate physical injury.”

The Grand Princess, carrying about 3,500 people, was anchored off the coast of San Francisco from March 4 after health authorities learned that some passengers had developed flu-like symptoms and that guests of an earlier cruise aboard the same ship had tested positive for coronavirus. At least 21 people—19 crew members and two passengers—have been diagnosed with the virus.

The ship has begun disembarking passengers for transport to quarantine stations or hospitals after it arrived at Port of Oakland on Monday.

In their complaint (pdf) filed in the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, the couple alleged that the cruise company was aware at least two of its passengers who disembarked from a previous trip on Feb. 21 in San Francisco had symptoms of coronavirus, but still made the decision to continue sailing the next trip. They said passengers from the previous trip were made aware of the potential exposure to the virus from an email sent to them by the company on Feb. 25.

The couple also alleged that the ship did not have a proper screening protocol in place to minimize the risk of exposure to the disease. The couple said prior to boarding the Grand Princess on Feb. 21, passengers were “simply asked to fill out a piece of paper confirming they were not sick.”

The couple alleged that the ship’s negligence has caused them emotional distress and trauma from the fear of developing symptoms of the virus, which has claimed the lives of thousands worldwide.

“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, who are elderly with underlying medical conditions,” the complaint stated.

Princess Cruises said in a statement to The Epoch Times: “Princess has been sensitive to the difficulties the COVID-19 outbreak has caused to our guests and crew. Our response throughout this process has focused on well-being our guests and crew within the parameters mandated on us by the government agencies involved and the evolving medical understanding of this new illness.”

“We [have] not been served with any lawsuit relating to this matter, and we will not comment on any pending litigation,” the statement added.

There are currently 27 deaths in the United States from coronavirus and 763 confirmed cases as of March 10, according to data by Johns Hopkins University.

The Department of State has warned travelers, particularly those with underlying health conditions, not to travel by cruise ship. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has noted that there is an increased risk of infection of coronavirus on cruise ships.

“CDC notes that older adults and travelers with underlying health issues should avoid situations that put them at increased risk for more severe disease. This entails avoiding crowded places, avoiding non-essential travel such as long plane trips, and especially avoiding embarking on cruise ships,” the department stated.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan