Lucio Gonzalez began showing symptoms similar to a common cold several days after disembarking from a cruise on the Grand Princess in San Francisco. Within three weeks, the 73-year-old retired state park worker was attached to a ventilator in an intensive care unit at Marin County Hospital.
The first known case of Covid-19 in Gonzalez, Marin County, died on March 27, 2020.
Her son, Miguel, has sued Princess Cruise Lines and its parent company, Carnival Corporation, alleging that the companies failed to warn passengers that they had contracted the deadly virus by boarding a ship in the early months of an epidemic. There is a risk of infection, which has now led to more and more deaths. 750,000 Americans
Miguel Gonzalez said in an interview: “I have no doubt he signed the contract on this ship.
He is far from alone. The cruise line industry is facing a wave of lawsuits from passengers and their families claiming that they or their loved ones contracted the Covid-19 on a plane, resulting in death or serious illness.
However, maritime and corporate law make it difficult to recover significant losses from cruise lines. Legal experts say that despite a series of coronavirus outbreaks at sea and a growing number of lawsuits, the industry’s biggest players still face a serious threat.
Ross A., a professor of sociology at the St. John’s College at Memorial University and an expert in the cruise industry. Klein said multibillion-dollar cruise companies are not worried about the potential financial impact of such lawsuits, even if they lose many cases. Newfoundland.
“It’s part of the cost of doing business,” he said. “From their point of view, it’s not serious.”
Activists and lawmakers have long accused cruise ship operators of reducing on-board crime and tarnishing their investigation with questions of jurisdiction over international waters. The epidemic is now demonstrating how other legal hurdles, and jurisdictional issues that seem to favor the cruise industry, are further complicating civil disputes over the CVID-19 cases on cruise ships.
“The system favors the billion-dollar corporations that own these cruise ships,” said Mark Chalos, managing partner of the San Francisco law firm, which represents the Gonzalez family.
A spokesman for Carnival Corporation said the cruise company would not comment on the pending lawsuit.
Cases involving death on a ship are governed by the law of the Death on High Seas Act, 1920, which limits the damages collected by the family of a passenger who died only due to negligence of financial loss – legally, Not for pain and suffering. Experts.
Legal experts say that for an elderly cruise passenger, such as Gonzalez, family members can usually expect to collect funeral and burial expenses and any financial contributions contributed by the deceased.
Miami’s James Walker said judges have been tough on plaintiffs who have sued on cruise ships for Covid-19 infection. How and when they were and how the cruise line was negligent in exposing them, said James Walker. Attorneys who have filed several cruise line lawsuits. As a result, he said, judges have dismissed most lawsuits, while the rest have been settled for less than $ 10,000.
Although cruise ships have a history of pre-epidemic outbreaks, many judges have agreed that cruise lines targeted by the Covid-19 lawsuit are subject to stricter standards than any other business location on land, such as a hotel. Should not be kept. , Restaurants or supermarkets, according to the lawyers who filed such lawsuits.
One of the challenges facing Gonzalez and other litigants fighting cruise lines is the so-called ticketing agreement, a multi-page document that governs the relationship between a cruise passenger and the cruise company. Passengers receive documents after booking a pass on the cruise.
Agreements vary slightly between cruise companies but almost always prohibit passengers from filing or becoming part of a class-action lawsuit against the cruise line and set specific time limits for filing a lawsuit. Agreements also require that cases involving personal injury, illness or death be resolved through binding arbitration.
“Ordinary families can’t come together collectively to fight for better resources,” Chalos said. “Class actions equalize the playing field.”
Contracts also require that lawsuits against cruise companies be filed in designated federal courts. Carnival Cruise requires all lawsuits to be filed against the line in Southern Florida District Court in Miami. Princess Cruz needs to file a lawsuit in California’s Central District Court in Los Angeles. The Netherlands and the United States need to file a lawsuit against the company in Washington’s West District Court in Seattle.
Legal experts say these requirements apply to travelers who live a long distance from the court where they should file for damages. Such bureaucratic hurdles also discourage cruise passengers from taking the cruise company.
“That means if you live in Omaha, Nebraska, you can’t sue them in Omaha,” Ross said.
The number of lawsuits filed against the princess and her parent company, Carnival Corporation, in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles increased to 96 in 2020, up from 37 in 2019, court records show. According to court records, the number of lawsuits filed against Carnival in Miami also increased to 315 in 2020 from 306 in 2019.
Princess Cruise made headlines in the spring of 2020, as the Covid-19 spread around the world, due to several onboard outbreaks. Diamond Princess was isolated on February 4, 2020 in Yokohama, Japan with more than 700 infected passengers. A passenger of the Grand Princess died with a Covid-19 after returning to San Francisco from a cruise in Mexico.
During the February 11-21 cruise by Gonzalez and his wife, more than 100 passengers tested positive for the virus, according to the lawsuit.
The key to winning a coronavirus lawsuit against a cruise line is proving that the cruise ship failed to function properly under the circumstances, said Michael Karcher, a Miami attorney who specializes in maritime law.
But he said cruise lines were defending lawsuits filed at the outset of the epidemic, arguing that no one at the time knew the best health protocols to follow. Recently, the largest cruise companies have added language to their ticket agreements informing passengers that by booking a cruise they accept the risk of a coronavirus contract on a ship – one of the most common businesses today. Is a common denial.
Since the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention stopped cruising on March 14, 2020, and extended it for more than a year, the largest cruise lines departing from the US have adopted strict health protocols, including requirements. Passengers should be vaccinated or tested for covid. -19 and wear a mask in some on-board situations.
The lawsuit, filed by Lucio Gonzalez’s family, states that Princess Cruz was aware of the dangers of the Kovid-19 spreading to the Diamond Princess in Japan in early February, but she used her protocol to warn or try to save the Grand Princess’s passengers. Has not changed.
“The Princess and Carnival leadership knew exactly what to look for in high-risk situations, and knew how to advise travelers,” the lawsuit alleges. “But, as the plaintiff will find out here, [the] The defense did not apply its lessons to the post-Diamond Princess cruise.
Lucio Gonzalez was a Mexican immigrant who retired from Mount Tamilpace State Park in Marin County, where he supervised a maintenance crew. His family describes him as a humble man who loved to work out, grow up, play soccer with his friends and go on cruises with his wife.
Once he was admitted to the hospital with a Covid-19 test, Lucio’s condition deteriorated rapidly and he was placed on a ventilator before any family member could speak to him.
“None of us got a chance to say goodbye to him,” said his daughter-in-law Carla.
The lawsuit alleges that Lucio Gonzalez’s death was a direct result of the cruise line’s failure to take effective measures to prevent the spread of the virus on his plane.
Despite the previous outbreak, Grand Princess Cruise staff did not make any changes to their daily routine, did not try to impose social distance on passengers and did not warn guests that a previous passenger had died of COVID-19, family members said. According to
Miguel Gonzalez said: “They did not give the general etiquette to warn them that there was a possibility that they had compromised,” said Miguel Gonzalez.
The main purpose of the lawsuit, he said, was to hold the princess and Carnival accountable for her father’s death: “I hope we can hold their feet to the fire and make them feel some pain.”