Carnival Corp.’s Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. failed to persuade a judge to dismiss negligence claims by 17 passengers who allege they suffered Covid-19 symptoms after being exposed to the coronavirus on a February voyage.
Monday’s ruling doesn’t address the merits of the lawsuit but it may give plaintiffs momentum after legal experts predicted virus cases against cruise companies would be difficult to win. Federal judges previously have sided with Carnival in decisions dismissing suits.
U.S. District Judge Gary Klausner in Los Angeles concluded that 17 of 18 passengers made legally sufficient allegations to proceed -- even though they were never tested for the virus, as was commonplace in the early days of the pandemic. They’re seeking punitive damages that could add up to millions of dollars.
The one passenger dropped from the case only reported experiencing “fatigue and extreme anxiety.” The others claimed they developed “symptoms consistent with Covid-19” after coming into contact with passengers on the ship who had or appeared to have the disease.
The Grand Princess left San Francisco for Hawaii on Feb. 21. Among the passengers were 62 who had been on the ship’s prior cruise to Mexico, including two with symptoms of coronavirus. The cruise line knew this yet failed to inform the new passengers, who might have chosen to skip the voyage, according to the suit.
In July, the judge dismissed 14 consolidated suits making emotional distress claims on behalf of passengers who were in close contact with others on the ship infected by the virus.
Princess Cruises didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment after regular business hours.