The operator of the Ruby Princess cruise ship knew about coronavirus outbreaks while the vessel was at sea and “recklessly” put the lives of the passengers at risk, according to a lawsuit filed by the family of a man who died after disembarking.
Princess Cruises is being sued for nearly $1.6 million by the relatives of American national Chung Chen, who died earlier this month as a result of the pandemic when he returned home to Los Angeles.
The man’s widow, Juishan Hsu, and daughter, Vivian, are seeking damages in the District Court of California as the death toll from cases linked to the infamous ship reaches 21.
Princess Cruises “chose to place profits over the safety of its passengers, crew and the general public in continuing to operate business as usual”, the lawsuit claims.
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The wife and daughter of the deceased man, who were both also infected by the virus, didn’t know there was an outbreak on the ship until after they got home.
“The case against Princess Cruises is based on corporate negligence and corporate gross negligence, they sailed on March 8 knowing that there was a huge risk of putting their passengers exposed to COVID-19,” the family’s lawyer Debi Chalik told the ABC.
“While they were on the ship, they had no idea anything was going on.
“There was no reason for them to know that anything other than an ordinary cruise was happening. They didn’t realise there was an outbreak on the ship until after they got home.”
The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday, accuses the company of allowing passengers to board without being screened to join crew who had already been exposed to the deadly virus.
This negligent action allowed the pandemic to “run rampant” on board the ship, the claim says according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
“They didn’t even bother to notify the passengers that there was an actual outbreak, allowing the sailing to continue as if it were a normal cruise, up until the time it returned to Australia three days early,” it claims.
A criminal investigation into the ship and its links to the coronavirus cases continues as the parent company Carnival Corporation denies the allegations.
“As this is the subject of active litigation in another country, we do not wish to add further comment at this time,” a spokesman said according to the SMH.
LABOR URGES HELP FOR CREW
The Federal Government is being urged by the opposition to help the crew of the COVID-19 infected Ruby Princess, saying the vessel must not be forced to leave Australian waters with staff on board who have tested positive to coronavirus.
“Only crew members who return negative test results and volunteer to remain on the vessel for the ship’s journey to its next port should remain on the vessel,” opposition home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally said in a joint statement with transport spokeswoman Catherine King.
They say the government must work with the cruise company and the International Transport Workers Federation who represent the crew to repatriate the remaining crew members as quickly and safely as possible.
The costs associated with the repatriation should be covered by the cruise company.
“Each day that passes without the Morrison government helping this stranded crew to get home safely, risks more people on board contracting COVID-19, and placing unnecessary additional stress on the New South Wales health system,” they said.
More than one hundred crew members on the Ruby Princess have contracted COVID-19 with a number already being flown to Sydney hospitals.
They said the risk to seafarers is “gravely serious” with a 40-year-old crew member of the cruise ship Artania in Western Australia having already passed away from the virus.
The ship is expected to leave Australian waters soon.
— with AAP