Carnival is poised to dramatically curb monetary damages for passengers killed by the coronavirus under the latest US court decision to side with the company.
If a ruling this week by a Los Angeles federal judge is followed by others, it could offer the cruise line something of a safe harbour under the Death on the High Seas Act. The century-old federal law limits payouts for survivors to “pecuniary” damages such as how much the deceased contributed through wages or housework. One maritime lawyer said that in the case of retirees, who make up a large portion of Carnival’s customers, the recovery may amount to little more than burial costs.
The subject of the ruling was a 71-year-old man who died in April after allegedly contracting Covid-19 while cruising on the Coral Princess. His family was trying to keep its wrongful-death lawsuit in state court, but the judge said the only way to proceed was under federal law.
The ruling comes as Carnival and other major cruise lines including Royal Caribbean Cruises are seeking a nod from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to return to sailing after the CDC’s “no sail” order expires at the end of the month. The industry, one of the most heavily battered by the virus, is putting in place new rules to entice vacationers back onto its boats, announcing through a trade group this week that it will require Covid-19 tests for guests and crew. Masks will be mandatory whenever social distancing isn’t possible. Shares in the company rose but have fallen by over 70% this year.
“Princess Cruises has been sensitive to the difficulties the Covid-19 outbreak has caused to our guests and crew,” spokesperson Negin Kamali said.
“Our response throughout this process has focused on the well-being of our guests and crew within the parameters dictated to us by the government agencies involved and the evolving medical understanding of this new illness,” the spokesperson said.
Princess Cruise Lines already scored a significant victory in another case by convincing a judge that mere exposure to Covid-19 doesn’t give passengers grounds to sue for emotional distress. Bloomberg