LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — An elderly couple who tested positive for the novel coronavirus after traveling on a cruise ship filed a negligence lawsuit against Santa Clarita-based Princess Cruise Lines Thursday in federal court in Los Angeles.
David and Donna Rumrill were passengers aboard the Ruby Princess, which sailed out of Sydney, Australia, March 8 and had to return three days early on March 19 after an outbreak of acute respiratory infections, according to the couple’s complaint.
The lawsuit alleged that Princess Cruises, despite having experienced previous COVID-19 outbreaks on other ships, sailed the Ruby Princess and its other ships out of various ports of call “despite their knowledge of the significant risk of harm to their passengers and crew members.”
“To add insult to injury, Princess was aware of an outbreak of COVID-19 on the March 8 sailing, and failed to even attempt to quarantine any of the passengers onboard,” the lawsuit alleged. “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.”
The Rumrills alleged that as a result of the company’s alleged “lackadaisical” approach to safety, passengers and crew aboard the Ruby Princess contracted COVID-19.
“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 plaintiffs, who are elderly,” the suit alleged. “As a direct and proximate result of the aforementioned negligence … plaintiffs are suffering from emotional distress, as they remain quarantined in their homes, hoping for a recovery.”
The couple is seeking at least $1 million in damages.
Australian police previously announced a criminal investigation into the Ruby Princess, citing questions over whether ship operator Princess Cruises was transparent about sickened passengers and crew members.
When the Ruby Princess docked in Sydney, nearly 2,700 passengers, including the Rumrills, were permitted to disembark, with some exhibiting flu-like symptoms. More than 340 passengers have since tested positive for the coronavirus and at least three have died, according to the New South Wales Ministry of Health.
Princess Cruises said in a statement that it does not comment on pending litigation.
“Princess Cruises has been sensitive to the difficulties the COVID-19 outbreak has caused to our guests and crew,” the company 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 Rumrills remain quarantined at home in Polk County, Florida after testing positive for COVID-19.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)