Critics have long regarded cruise ships as massive floating Petri dishes of germs and viruses. Now in light of the spread of the coronavirus pandemic around the globe, some Americans are looking at the potentially negligent behavior of cruise lines. One notable example is the Grand Princess quarantined off the coast of California because it had an outbreak on board.

One couple is asking for $1 million in damages, claiming that the cruise line officials knew of the risk of infections from a previous voyage. Still, the ship continued with its route, taking on new passengers and exposing them to the lethal virus. This suit is a drop in the bucket for the multi-billion-dollar industry, but lines have faced lawsuits before.

Legal precedents abound

There are several notable precedents involving illness or injury on cruise ships:

  • The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Miami overturned a 1988 precedent in 2015 that exempted cruise lines from liability for medical malpractice by the ship’s medical staff.
  • There were several cruise ship outbreaks related to the norovirus in 2016/7 that resulted in class actions, notably Fred Olsen Cruise Line not providing a proper level of care to 16 passengers.
  • The 11th Circuit Court also allowed a case to proceed against Royal Caribbean International, which claims that ship employees did not intervene on behalf of a passenger to prevent sexual assault and rape by another passenger in 2015.

More suits to come?

The courts are shut down, and the governments are attempting to contain the coronavirus. As scientists and government officials learn more about this virus and how it spreads, victims and their families may follow the lead of the couple and sue for compensation and damages. This is most likely if it is determined that cruise lines did not warn passengers or ignored the obvious signs of how dangerous this pandemic would become.