A family in the US is suing Princess Cruises for more than $US1 million ($1.6 million) for “recklessly” failing to alert passengers to the risk of exposure to coronavirus on the Ruby Princess.
The death toll from cases linked to the ship has reached 21 after US man Chung Chen, 64, died from COVID-19 after returning home.
The lawsuit says the cruise operator, 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 lawyer representing his wife and daughter, Debi Chalik, said the family were not aware there was an outbreak on the ship until after they got home.
She said the ship’s decision to sail despite the coronavirus risk goes against what a responsible cruise line would have done.
“The case against Princess Cruises is based on corporate negligence and corporate gross negligence, they sailed on March 8th knowing that there was a huge risk of putting their passengers exposed to COVID-19,” she said.
Mr Chen died in Torrance, Los Angeles County, on April 4 after contracting COVID-19.
He is the second known international fatality from the cruise ship, following the death of another Californian man, Steven Lazarus, earlier this month.
More than 600 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 21 deaths are now linked to the cruise, which disembarked 2,700 passengers unfettered on March 19.
He travelled on the Ruby Princess, which departed on March 8 out of Sydney, with his wife, Juishan Hsu, and daughter, Vivian Chen.
“While they were on the ship, they had no idea anything was going on,” Ms Chalik told ABC News. “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.”
In the lawsuit, it is claimed that the cruise line “recklessly” continued with the voyage despite an outbreak on an earlier cruise.
It says the cruise company sailed “despite their knowledge of the significant risk of harm to their passengers and crew”.
The claim includes that Princess Cruises’ corporate office was aware of the outbreak and on boarding day on March 8, employees were instructed to give passengers vouchers to buy lunch while sailing was delayed by six hours due to the ship being disinfected.
“If [the] plaintiffs had knowledge of the actual risk of exposure prior to boarding, they would have never boarded the ship, and they would’ve boarded the first flight out of Australia and returned home,” the lawsuit says.
The ship remains docked in Port Kembla, south of Sydney.
A criminal investigation into the ship and its link to the COVID-19 cases continues.
A spokesperson for Princess Cruises said the company would not comment on active litigation.