The Grand Princess cruise ship passes by Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay on Monday, March 9, 2020 as it heads to dock at the Port of Oakland with 21 people on board who tested positive for coronavirus. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Grand Princess passengers sue cruise line over exposure to coronavirus

Nine Northern Californians who were on the Grand Princess cruise to Hawaii sued Princess Cruise Lines and its parent company, Carnival Corp., in federal court in San Francisco Wednesday for alleged negligence in exposing them to the coronavirus.

One of the plaintiffs, Pamela Guisti of San Mateo County, became infected with the virus and was treated in an intensive care unit, according to the lawsuit. The others, who live in San Francisco, San Mateo County and Stanislaus County, were “traumatized by the fear of developing COVID-19” while quarantined aboard the Grand Princess and then at Travis Air Force Base after they disembarked, the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit is one of at least a dozen filed against the cruise companies by passengers on the ship, which sailed from San Francisco to Hawaii on Feb. 21, began returning on Feb. 29, and was stalled off the California coast for several days before being allowed to dock in Oakland on March 9.

The other lawsuits were filed in federal court in Los Angeles. While on board the Grand Princess on March 5, 19 crew members and two passengers tested positive for the coronavirus. Since then, the number testing positive increased to 103 as of March 26 and two passengers and one crew member have died.

Before sailing to Hawaii, the ship made a 10-day round trip to Mexico, and 62 passengers and more than 1,000 crew members continued on the voyage to Hawaii. On Feb. 25, a Placer County man who had been on the Mexico cruise died of the coronavirus, becoming California’s first fatality from the disease. The lawsuit alleges the cruise companies were negligent in failing to inform Hawaii passengers that several passengers on the Mexico trip had shown coronavirus symptoms, failing to disinfect the ship thoroughly and failing to screen passengers and crew before departing for Hawaii. It also alleges the companies were negligent during the cruise in not informing passengers about the previous traveler’s death and not quarantining passengers in their cabins until about March 5.

The lawsuit asks for compensatory and punitive financial awards for lost earnings, medical expenses and emotional distress. It seeks to be certified as a class action on behalf of all of the more than 2,000 passengers on the Hawaii trip.

Mary Alexander, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, stated, “Carnival and Princess Cruise Lines negligently put thousands of passengers at risk of serious harm, which risk will continue for some time.

“Well over a thousand potentially infected individuals were allowed to share confined space with another nearly 2,000 uninfected passengers, casually and callously exposing all to COVID-19,” she said.

Princess Cruise Lines, headquartered in Santa Clarita, said in a statement, “We do not comment on any pending litigation.” The statement said, “Princess Cruises 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 the wellbeing of our guests and crew within the parameters dictated to us by the government agencies involved and the evolving medical understanding of this new illness.”

By Julia Cheever, Bay City News Service

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