Debi Chalik, a personal injury attorney at the Chalik & Chalik Law Offices in Plantation, filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Broward County clients Monday.
Her clients Eva and Ronald Weissberger, who are her parents, sued Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. for gross negligence in connection with a coronavirus outbreak aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship on which they are traveling.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, seeks more than $1 million in damages. It blames Princess Cruise Lines for allowing passengers aboard the ship, despite allegedly knowing the vessel was contaminated with coronavirus.
Princess Cruise Lines did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.
Meanwhile, Chalik said Eva, 69, and Ronald, 75, have been stranded on the cruise ship since Thursday, in bleak conditions. She said the couple is “exposed to the Coronavirus running rampant” on the cruise ship where they are “paying passengers.”
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The ship is off the coast of San Francisco where passengers are “awaiting their fate,” according to the attorney. Prior to arriving aboard the vessel, several hundred passengers were aboard the Diamond Princess.
Before boarding the ship, proper screening protocols were not in place to minimize exposure to the disease to passengers and crew, the lawsuit alleges. Before boarding the Grand Princess, passengers only had to fill out a single piece of paper to confirm they were not sick with the new virus and no passengers were questioned.
Passengers on the previous cruise ship were notified on Feb. 25 that at least two passengers had symptoms of COVID-19. Sixty-two passengers on the earlier voyage were exposed to the passengers that were confirmed infected, and two later died.
However, the new passengers on the Grand Princess were not notified prior to the sailing that other passengers had been on a cruise ship with infected passengers. Had they been notified, plaintiffs allege, they could have avoided going aboard the Grand Princess or disembarked in Hawaii soon after the cruise ship set sail. Two of those new passengers, Eva and Ronald, are the parents of the attorney who filed the lawsuit.
“The biggest problem is there is no communication from the ship with passengers,” Chalik said. “They really learned the information from people like me, on land.”
“They are in the dark,” she added. “They are given snippets of information.”
Chalik, in an interview with the Daily Business Review, said she is fielding calls from other people aboard the ship. Chalik said there is a real sense of panic on the vessel from passengers and crew members. She told us two other people aboard are in the process of filing a lawsuit.
Right now, servers are delivering three meals a day to passengers. Ronald, who has heart issues, was told by staff that he would have his medication before it runs out on Wednesday, but has no assurance it will arrive on time.
Once the cruise ship disembarks, passengers from California will remain in quarantine. Passengers from other states could be sent to military bases, likely in Texas or Georgia.
Chalik said, “I can’t even imagine being in my parents’ shoes right now.”