WILMINGTON (REUTERS) - A Florida couple who was aboard the coronavirus-hit Grand Princess ocean liner has sued the ship's owner for more than US$1 million (S$1.38 million), claiming the company put profits over safety and did not have proper screening protocols in place.
Ronald and Eva Weissberger of Broward County, Florida, sued Princess Cruise Lines Ltd, a unit of Carnival Corp, alleging the company caused them emotional distress and trauma as they fear they will develop the Covid-19, a flu-like disease caused by the virus.
The Weissbergers said Princess Cruise lacked a proper screening protocol to minimise the risk of passengers' exposure.
The lawsuit was filed in US District Court in Los Angeles.
Carnival did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Grand Princess docked in Oakland, California, on Monday (March 9) so its 2,400 passengers could disembark and be taken to quarantine or medical sites. An initial round of testing aboard the ship last week found that 21 people, mostly crew, were infected with the coronavirus.
The ship has been linked to 12 coronavirus cases from an earlier voyage to Mexico.
The Weissbergers, who boarded the ship on Feb 21 when it departed from San Francisco, were still passengers on the Grand Princess when the lawsuit was filed, according to the complaint.
They claim passengers were only asked to "fill out a piece of paper confirming they were not sick" without being further questioned or screened prior to boarding.
"Defendant Princess chose to place profits over the safety of its passengers, crew and 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 said.
On Wednesday, the Grand Princess was denied entry to San Francisco Bay as it sailed back from Hawaii after state and local health authorities learned that some passengers from an earlier cruise on the same ship had developed flu-like symptoms.
The ship was allowed to dock in Oakland on Monday.
The lawsuit said that the cruise operator should have developed methods for protecting passengers due to its experience with another of its cruise liners, the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined in Japan. About 700 aboard that ship became infected and seven passengers died.
The complaint did not identify the Weissbergers' medical conditions or provide their ages.
Princess is refunding passengers the full price of the cruise plus air travel, hotel, ground transportation and pre-paid shore excursions.