Family sues Princess Cruise Lines over passenger’s coronavirus death

In this photo provided by the New South Wales Police, the Ruby Princess cruise ship is docked in Wollongong, Australia, on April 8. Police wearing protective gear boarded the cruise ship to seize evidence and question crew members after the vessel was linked to hundreds of COVID-19 cases and more than a dozen deaths across Australia. (Nathan Patterson, NSW Police)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A Los Angeles family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Princess Cruise Lines, alleging one of their ships took out new passengers last month despite widespread infection on the previous sailing.

Chung Chen, a 64-year-old passenger on the March 8 sailing of the Ruby Princess out of Sydney, Australia, contracted the new coronavirus and died after returning home to California.

The family is seeking over $1 million in damages.

According to Chalik and Chalik, the South Florida law firm filing the suit, the ship delayed the initial boarding for nearly six hours without notifying passengers why.

“They were apparently trying to clean the ship and have it ready to sail out again, despite the widespread infection that became apparent when on the earlier sailing, approximately 200 passengers and crewmembers showed symptoms of the virus,” the firm said in a news release.

The lawsuit claims that Chen and his wife and 21-year-old daughter flew home to California after the ship returned to Sydney three days early, and all three became ill. Chen’s wife and daughter recovered, but he died April 4.

“This tragic death could have been avoided if Princess Cruises chose safety over profits,” attorney Debi Chalik said in the release. “As a result, the Chen family has been devastated by the death of their beloved husband and father.”

Princess Cruises is a subsidiary of the Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines. The company said it does not comment on any pending litigation but released this statement:

“Princess Cruises has been sensitive to the difficulties the COVID-19 outbreak has caused to our guests and crew. 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.”

A Princess Cruises spokesman told the Washington Post last week that anyone displaying COVID-19 symptoms or who had been in contact with an infected person was not allowed onboard and that crew members were tested before the Ruby Princess left.

A report out of Australia says a kitchen worker may have been the source of a massive outbreak on the ship, which has been linked to 19 deaths.

Other suits have been filed against Princess Cruises. According to a report by NBC News, lawsuits against cruise lines can face obstacles because of certain maritime laws.