Judge Dismisses Cruise Passengers’ COVID-19 Lawsuits

Reuters
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July 15, 2020

FILE PHOTO: The Grand Princess cruise ship carrying passengers who have tested positive for coronavirus is seen docked at the Port of Oakland in Oakland, California, U.S. March 9, 2020.REUTERS/Kate Munsch/File Photo

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By Tom Hals July 15 (Reuters) – A federal judge dismissed lawsuits by Grand Princess cruise ship passengers who sued for emotional distress caused by their fear of exposure to COVID-19, saying that allowing their cases to proceed would “lead to a flood of trivial suits.”

Judge Gary Klausner in Los Angeles said in Tuesday’s ruling that allowing passengers to collect damages based on potential COVID-19 exposure without suffering symptoms raised concerns of unlimited liability for restaurants and other businesses.

Debi Chalik, a lawyer for passengers Ronald and Eva Weissberger, said she was disappointed with the ruling and might appeal.

Chalik said fears of COVID-19 lawsuits were overblown because few businesses welcome customers the way Princess did, knowing the virus was potentially present.

“If a gym or restaurant is inviting people to come when they know the virus is circulating there, I think you should be able to sue,” she said.

Carnival Corp, which operates the Grand Princess, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The cruise industry has been hard hit by the pandemic and Carnival said last week it was planning to resume operations.

Read: Class Action Suits Face Uphill Battle Against Cruise Lines
In March, officials prevented the Grand Princess from docking in California for days after a coronavirus outbreak before taken the 2,400 passengers into quarantine.

The Weissbergers alleged the cruise line allowed them to board the ship even though passengers who disembarked the same day from a prior cruise had symptoms of COVID-19.

The couple sought more than $1 million for putting their health at risk and causing trauma.

Businesses have asked Congress for protections against lawsuits for allegedly exposing customers to coronavirus, but Christopher Robinette, a professor at Widener University Commonwealth Law School, said this case was a long shot.

“It’s one of the ‘I was afraid of catching’ cases. Those are extremely hard to win,” he said. (Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Richard Chang)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2020.

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