As reported by Law360, passengers on Princess Cruise Lines have asked a California federal court to deny Carnival Corps.’s attempt to negate their request for a jury trial. The lawsuit alleges that the companies knew that people aboard a preceding voyage had COVID-19 symptoms, yet loaded new passengers on-board regardless.
Carnival Corp. (which owns Princess) argued the proposed class is not entitled to a jury trial under the relevant admiralty law. Passengers countered by citing the Seventh Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which guarantees their right to a trial by jury in common law matters, and further noted that maritime law does not expressly forbid a jury trial.
“Where parties invoke both admiralty and non-admiralty bases for jurisdiction, the parties’ jury trial rights remain inviolate so long as their claims are ones that could have been brought at common law,” the passengers noted in their brief, citing a 1997 Ninth Circuit ruling in Ghotra by Ghotra v. Bandila Shipping Inc.
In the April 2020 complaint, the passengers alleged that Princess and Carnival allowed more than 2,400 passengers to board the Grand Princess vessel in February 2020 while failing to disclose that passengers from the previous voyage were known to have displayed COVID-19 symptoms. Ship staff did not do any medical screenings or even disinfect the ship before new passengers arrived. Passengers who claimed to have contracted the coronavirus said they had tested positive shortly after disembarking form the Grand Princess in early March of 2020, or that they at least met the criteria for a “probable case” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention while still on board or after exiting the vessel, according to court documents.