Law360 (April 7, 2020, 11:15 PM EDT) -- Carnival-owned Costa Cruises was hit with a putative class action Tuesday in Florida federal court alleging it negligently allowed the Costa Luminosa to sail knowing a previous passenger showed symptoms of COVID-19, resulting in 2,000 passengers getting on board a "ticking coronavirus time bomb."
An outbreak of the virus occurred during the voyage, and throughout passengers were kept in the dark or given outdated information as the ship was denied entry to multiple ports-of-call, according to the complaint.
According to the complaint, "During the voyage, Costa concealed information surrounding the coronavirus from passengers by blocking out news channels on stateroom TVs that had previously been available to passengers during the beginning of the cruise. Remarkably, media outlets were reporting about the coronavirus issues on the Costa Luminosa before Costa was informing its passengers."
The ship left Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on March 5, even though a passenger on a previous leg of the cruise had been removed showing signs of the virus days before, and later died, according to the complaint filed by Costa Luminosa passenger Paul Turner.
After roughly 2,000 passengers left from Florida, a couple from Italy was removed from the ship in Puerto Rico on March 8 showing COVID-19 symptoms, with both later testing positive, according to the lawsuit.
On the same day the couple was removed, the CDC expressly warned that U.S. citizens should not travel by cruise ship, but passengers aboard the vessel were not advised of this warning and were not given an opportunity to leave the ship, the lawsuit alleges, adding that they were instead "dragged across the Atlantic in a ticking coronavirus time bomb."
The ship was later denied entry to a port in Antigua. During its cross-Atlantic voyage, Costa learned that the Italian couple and the man who was removed on the previous voyage on Feb. 29 in the Cayman Islands had tested positive for the coronavirus, but waited a full day to inform passengers, according to the lawsuit.
"During and after this revelation, Costa did not instruct passengers to isolate and/or quarantine to avoid the known and significant actual risk of contracting the coronavirus as passengers were allowed unfettered access to the pools, gym and buffets the entire time, which further put passengers at an actual risk of exposure to coronavirus," Turner alleges in the complaint.
On March 15, the Costa Luminosa arrived in the Canary Islands and unloaded three more passengers with symptoms of the coronavirus, but did not allow other passengers off the vessel, according to the lawsuit.
Also on March 15, passengers were advised by the captain to remain in their cabins, and then on March 16 were told by the captain they were being forced to quarantine in their cabins, according to the lawsuit.
By the time the ship's passengers disembarked in France on March 19 — with few precautions being taken as they shuffled off the ship — 36 of 75 passengers tested were found to have the virus, according to the lawsuit.
Counts in the complaint included negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
"Based on Costa's callous disregard for the safety and well-being of its passengers, the complaint seeks all damages available under the law including punitive damages," Turner's attorney Michael A. Winkleman of Lipcon Margulies Alsina & Winkleman PA said in a statement.
Costa Cruises did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Turner is represented by Michael A. Winkleman, Jason R. Margulies, Marc E. Weiner and Daniel W. Grammes of Lipcon Margulies Alsina & Winkleman PA.
Counsel for Costa Cruises was not immediately available.
The case is Paul Turner et. al. v. Costa Crociere SPA et. al, case number 1:20-cv-21481, in U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
--Editing by Michael Watanabe.
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