Costa Cruises Faces Coronavirus Lawsuits
Costa Cruises, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp. and sister line to Princess Cruise Lines, is the latest cruise line facing lawsuits amidst the coronavirus pandemic. These lawsuits are related to the Costa Luminosa. The passengers who filed the lawsuit attempted to get off the ship after a report that two other passengers disembarked. They wrote the captain a letter, but their attempts to get off the ship were ignored and they eventually contracted the virus and fell ill.
Ninety-eight passengers of this voyage have teamed up to file a class-action lawsuit against Costa Cruises alleging that they endangered the lives of their passengers with their negligence and bad decision-making.
Costa Cruises insists that it stepped up its efforts to sanitize the ship after hearing that two of their passengers fell ill with the virus. Costa also maintains that it quarantined passengers after learning that some of its passengers had fallen ill with the virus. All the cruise lines will defend by asserting that the passengers were in the same position to evaluate the risk of cruising as the cruise line and chose to go on the cruise (ignoring their failure to institute a refund policy that would have allowed passengers to cancel without penalty) and that they followed all recommendations of health authorities in sanitizing the vessels.
The plaintiffs are seeking class-action status against Costa Cruises but provisions in the passenger ticket contract will more likely than not prevent them from doing so.
Class-Action Lawsuits Against Cruise Ships
Passengers who come onboard are issued a ticket which incorporates the terms and conditions applicable to the cruise (Passenger Ticket Contract) The tickets are electronic and the passenger accepts by clicking a box. Most passengers are not even aware that they are signing away their rights. By clicking the box and accepting the terms the passenger is agreeing to only sue in a specific location, is agreeing to give notice to the cruise line of a claim within six months and agreeing to bring suit within a year. The ticket contracts now almost always contain language that prohibits certain types of lawsuits against the cruise line and this includes class-action lawsuits.
Because of the major outbreaks of the virus on Carnival ships, starting with its Princess Cruise Line and because it continued to sail, disembarking and embarking passengers and crew on several voyages , Carnival has become the primary target for claims arising from exposure to and contraction of the virus. By contrast, Royal Caribbean, which is second to Carnival as the largest cruise operator in the world, has only one lawsuit against it. Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line, another major cruise line operator, is facing investor lawsuits related to deceptive marketing and misrepresentations made to passengers after the danger of the coronavirus was known. Investors contend that Norwegian Cruise Lines wrongfully downplayed the severity of the virus and continued booking cruises throughout the summer.
Because the ticket is a contract, courts typically will enforce its provisions, including provisions that passengers cannot assert class-action lawsuits against the cruise line.
Can the Class Action Prohibition be Voided?
Attorneys representing injured passengers in these cruise line lawsuits will argue that the clause in the contract that prohibits class-action lawsuits should be voided because Carnival intentionally exposed their passengers to danger when they failed to take more aggressive action. Several recent Supreme Court decisions and the current pro-business/anti-consumer environment make it unlikely that the class actions prohibitions will be overcome.
Talk to a Miami Maritime Attorney Today
Need help filing a claim against a ship or the company that owns it? Call Miami admiralty & maritime attorney Michael F. Guilford today to schedule a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help.