Princess Cruise's Negligence Led To Virus Death, Suit Says

By Sarah Jarvis
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Law360 (April 15, 2020, 7:27 PM EDT) -- A woman whose husband tested positive for the coronavirus and died after they were on a cruise has leveled claims accusing Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. of negligently setting sail while knowing two recent passengers had symptoms of the virus and many more had been exposed to it.

Susan Dorety said Princess was negligent in failing to timely remove her husband Michael Dorety from the ship after repeated pleas and after he exhibited symptoms of COVID-19. The cruise line's "lackadaisical approach" to the safety of the passengers and crew led to Michael's death and to Susan Dorety testing positive for the coronavirus, according to the complaint filed Tuesday in California federal court.

"Princess chose to place profits over the safety of its passengers, crew, and the general public in continuing to operate business as usual, despite their knowledge of the actual risk of injury to Susan and Michael Dorety, who are in the age group most susceptible to death from COVID-19," the complaint said.

Susan Dorety said she and her husband, who served as a firefighter for 39 years, were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary on a Grand Princess cruise out of San Francisco in late February and early March. The cruise line eventually docked in Oakland, California, and quarantined guests to their rooms, where the Texas-based couple stayed for six days, according to the complaint.

As Michael Dorety experienced symptoms of the virus, Susan Dorety repeatedly called Princess' emergency line seeking assistance. A doctor later came to their room, confirmed Michael Dorety had a fever and gave the couple Tamiflu and Tylenol. At that point, Michael Dorety was unresponsive, according to the complaint.

About three days after his symptoms developed, Susan Dorety convinced the cruise line to let them off the ship to see medical personnel from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who were on the dock. Michael Dorety was immediately taken to a hospital, tested positive for the coronavirus and struggled to stay alive, according to the complaint.

"The doctor called Susan Dorety to tell her that her husband was dying," the complaint said. "Susan Dorety and her children listened as the doctor counted down Michael Dorety's heartbeats until he was gone. Michael Dorety died alone."

Dorety's suit includes a claim of negligence and a claim of gross negligence, and she is seeking actual and exemplary damages. Dorety's attorney, Rusty Hardin, told Law360 the suit will be filed as an intervenor complaint in a March 13 suit filed by passengers Debra and Michael Dalton, if the court approves a request to intervene. The claims come as several other passengers have filed similar suits against the cruise line.

Princess had known that at least two of its passengers from the ship's prior voyage — who disembarked on Feb. 21, the same day the Doretys boarded for their cruise — had coronavirus symptoms and some later died from the virus, according to the complaint. Additionally, 62 passengers from the prior voyage, who were exposed to the infected passengers, remained on board for the Feb. 21 cruise.

"They should never have loaded that second ship," Hardin said of the cruise line. "As soon as they found out somebody had died from the virus, they should have unloaded the ship."

Counsel for Princess did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Dorety is represented by Rusty Hardin, Ryan Higgins and Daniel Dutko of Rusty Hardin & Associates LLP, and Gerald Singleton and J. Ross Peabody of Singleton Law Firm APC.

Princess is represented by Jeffrey B. Maltzman, Edgar R. Nield and Gabrielle De Santis Nield of Maltzman & Partners PA.

The case is Debra Dalton et al. v. Princess Cruise Lines Ltd., case number 2:20-cv-02458, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

--Additional reporting by Joyce Hanson. Editing by Jack Karp.

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