Carnival Hit With Suit Over Passengers' COVID-19 Exposure

By Y. Peter Kang
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Law360 (June 25, 2020, 7:02 PM EDT) -- Holland America and parent company Carnival are accused of exposing more than 1,000 cruise ship passengers to COVID-19 on a vessel that sailed out of Argentina in March, according to a proposed class action filed in Seattle federal court.

Passengers Leonard Lindsay and Carl Zehner on Wednesday lodged the suit against Holland America Line Inc. and Carnival Corp., alleging that despite knowing outbreaks had been occurring on other company-owned ships such as subsidiary Princess Cruise Lines' Diamond Princess in February, passengers on Holland's MS Zaandam were not subject to proper screening or other precautionary measures prior to boarding the ship on March 7.

In addition, although Holland was aware that some crew and passengers were exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, and following a mid-March denial of port entry by Chile, Holland allowed passengers to gather in large crowds and participate in group events designed to entertain the passengers stuck at sea, according to the complaint.

Due to the companies' alleged negligence, Zehner contracted the novel coronavirus and was later hospitalized and put on a ventilator, while Lindsay was forced to remain aboard the ship for a month, according to the suit. Four passengers died during the trip and two of those were confirmed by Holland to have died due to COVID-19, the complaint says.

An attorney for the proposed class said the trip was a "life-threatening nightmare" for the passengers.

"Despite knowing of the risk and dangers of COVID-19 exposure on its ships, Holland America and Carnival put no meaningful screening or preventative measures in place on the cruises prior to departure and negligently continued to encourage guests to gather and mingle even as the virus spread through the passengers and crew," Kenneth S. Byrd of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP said in a statement.

Holland America sent a statement to Law360 on Thursday saying it does not comment on pending litigation but that it "has put the safety and well-being of our guests and crew as the top priority," and in accordance with federal and World Health Organization guidelines.

The suit brings claims of negligence, gross negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress and intentional infliction of emotional distress and seeks to establish a class of all 1,243 passengers who were aboard the MS Zaandam.

Wednesday's suit is the latest of at least three actions filed by Lieff Cabraser against Carnival. In April, the firm lodged a proposed class action on behalf of passengers of the Grand Princess and the following month a wrongful death suit was filed on behalf of the estate of a 74-year-old Grand Princess passenger who died of COVID-19.

The passengers are represented by Elizabeth J. Cabraser, Jonathan D. Selbin, Mark P. Chalos, Kenneth S. Byrd and Madeline M. Gomez of Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP and Kim D. Stephens, Jason T. Dennett and Rebecca L. Solomon of Tousley Brain Stephens PLLC.

Counsel information for Holland America and Carnival was not immediately available Thursday.

The case is Lindsay et al. v. Carnival Corp. et al., case number 2:20-cv-00982, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.

--Editing by Stephen Berg.

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