Cruise Line Responds to Couple's Coronavirus Suit Allegations

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Princess Cruises today responded to a lawsuit filed by a couple who allege they contracted the coronavirus while in quarantine after a cruise aboard the Grand Princess last winter, saying the Santa Clarita-based company prioritizes the interests of guests and employees.

Allen and Mary Stobaugh brought the suit Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging intentional battery and negligence. They're seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

“Princess Cruises has been sensitive to the difficulties the COVID-19 outbreak has caused to our guests and crew,'' a statement released by the company reads. “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. We do not comment on any pending litigation.''

Before the Stobaughs boarded the Grand Princess in San Francisco on Feb. 21, Princess Cruises knew that a passenger on the previous trip – which had just ended in San Francisco -- had likely exposed the ship's passengers and crew members to COVID-19 and that many of the same passengers and crew would be on the plaintiffs' trip, the suit alleges.

The ship's chief medical officer admitted that the sick passenger aboard the earlier Grand Princess cruise fell ill within two or three days after boarding, the suit states. The doctor said the passenger was treated for serious respiratory problems and reported feeling sick for six or seven days, according to the suit, which says the ill passenger was never quarantined.

Prior to the start of the Stobaughs' two-week round-trip cruise from San Francisco to Hawaii, Princess Cruises “failed to take any safety precautions'' such as disinfecting or sanitizing the ship before the passengers bound for Hawaii came aboard, the suit alleges.

The company also did not warn passengers that a sick passenger had been aboard the vessel on the trip that had just ended, according to the plaintiffs. But midway through the trip, passengers received a letter from the ship doctor telling them of a potential exposure to the virus and that the ship would be returning to San Francisco, their lawsuit says.

After returning to shore, the Stobaughs say they were put on a crowded bus and one passenger later tested positive for the coronavirus.

On March 17, about a week after the Stobaughs disembarked the Grand Princess, they were finally tested for COVID-19, according to their court papers. While awaiting test results, 77-year-old Allen Stobaugh developed COVID-19 symptoms and his 74-year-old wife tested positive the next day, although she was mostly asymptomatic, their suit says.

Allen Stobaugh's symptoms persisted and his condition deteriorated to the point that he was put into a medically induced coma on a ventilator, according to the suit, which says he was released on April 16 after a 25-day hospital stay. The Stobaughs believe they contracted the virus while in quarantine on land.

Photo: Getty Images

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