A wrongful death lawsuit filed by the widow of Princess Cruise Lines passenger Michael Dorety, who died from Covid-19, has been reinstated by a US Federal Appeals Court.
The lawsuit had previously been dismissed on the basis that it was pre-empted by the Death on the High Seas Act, which applies when an individual’s death is caused by a wrongful act occurring over three miles from the US coast.
However, the new court ruling overturned that judgement, on the basis that the cruise line had not established that the deceased passenger had contracted the disease on the high seas.
Dorety was exposed to Covid-19 while on a cruise to Hawaii. His widow, Susan, presented evidence showing that her husband had contracted the disease while in Hawaiian territorial waters.
In response to the new evidence, the court stated that the ‘district court erred in concluding that Princess met the burden to show that Dorety contracted Covid-19 on the high seas’.
It added that the district court had only looked at two categories of evidence: ‘evidence about Mr Dorety’s symptoms and the average Covid-19 incubation period, and evidence about possible sites of exposure’. However, it found that this analysis ‘failed to account for symptoms other than fever’.
The ruling found that in light of the new testimony, it was clear that Dorety had showed a number of other symptoms of Covid-19, including ‘loss of appetite, fatigue, trouble breathing, and a cough that were present before the fever developed’.
Remanding the case for further proceedings, the ruling stated: “On an inconclusive record, the party who carries the burden of proof necessarily fails to shoulder that burden.”
Fellow cruise line operator Carnival recently lost a class action ruling in the Australian Federal Court on the grounds of negligence in the face of an outbreak of Covid-19.