Cruise passengers allege mishandling of coronavirus in class-action lawsuit

Cruise passengers allege mishandling of coronavirus in class-action lawsuit
© CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / Getty

A class-action suit has been filed against Costa Cruises, with former passengers alleging that it badly mishandled the coronavirus, citing objections including safety hazards and a lack of precautions.

The lawsuit filed on Tuesday in Florida claims a 68-year-old Italian passenger from a previous voyage showed symptoms of the virus when he disembarked Feb. 29. The man later tested positive for the virus and died, but the cruise line did not mention the situation to any passengers before the ship sailed again March 5.

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, of Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman P.A.

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The suit argues Costa is responsible for exposing more than 2,000 passengers on the ship to the coronavirus.

Other individual lawsuits have been filed against Costa, a Carnival subsidiary, as well as against Princess Cruises, a company that also faced coronavirus outbreaks on board last month.

The suits argue similar details, such as lack of communication from cruise lines about the potential for biohazard threats, as well as questioning why Costa did not cancel trips over concerns about the virus.

"It would only stand to reason ... that Costa would have learned to take all necessary precautions to keep its passengers, crew and the general public safe," the lawsuit stated, referencing outbreaks on the Grand Princess and Diamond Princess.

Experts and attorneys caution that these suits face an uphill battle against limiting terms of service concealed in passengers' paperwork as well as maritime laws that have existed long before the sinking of the Titanic, USA Today reported.

The Death on the High Seas Act, passed in the 1920s, prevents survivors from suing in regards to personal emotional distress or pain and suffering, even if a loved one dies while at sea.

A separate law from 1850 allows vessel owners to limit liability charges to the value of the ship while disallowing class-action suits.