A Royal Caribbean cruise set to tour the eastern Caribbean was halted and returned to shore following a massive outbreak of illness that sickened nearly 700 people. The illness had been originally thought to be food poisoning. Further investigation revealed a norovirus dubbed the “GII.4 Sydney” strain of the highly-contagious pathogen.
Do the passengers of a cancelled cruise have any recourse against the cruise line for their illnesses?
It is highly unlikely that the passengers of this particular cruise would be able to recover damages following the outbreak. The types of symptoms following a norovirus infection resemble what many mistakenly consider the flu—gastrointestinal suffering. If this incident had been a food poisoning issue, rather than a flu, then the path to damages would be somewhat clearer.
A cruise line owes a duty to its passengers. This higher standard of care applies to any business involved in transportation, including railways and airlines. A duty to protect the health and safety of its passengers underlies a claim of negligence for tainted food.
Claiming a breach in the duty to care for its passengers by allowing the existence of an airborne virus proves nearly impossible because of a legal concept of causation. In order to show that a party should be held responsible for a resulting harm, the plaintiffs must establish four broad concepts in negligence: duty, breach, causation and damages. A cruise line owes a duty to protect its passengers’ health and safety.
If those passengers are injured during a cruise, it would be difficult for the cruise to deny liability considering it has total control of the environment. Everything the passengers encounter seemingly originates from the cruise ship—the ship provides onboard food, beverages, lodging, entertainment, and personnel.
But to assume that the cruise line has complete authority and control over every aspect of the passenger experience denies the reality of passengers mingling in a confined environment and the reality of bugs.
Personal Injury Lawyer
If you have been sickened by food poisoning following a cruise tour, and continue to suffer the physical and mental suffering associated with illness, consult a personal injury attorney who can discuss causation in more detail.