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Carnival Executives Knew of COVID-19 Threat, Endangered Crew Members Intentionally

Vuk Vujasinovic

Vuk Vujasinovic


New information indicates that top executives at Carnival Cruise Lines were well aware of the potential danger that the coronavirus posed to their crew members and still chose to continue letting their ships sail. Carnival’s mismanagement and utter failure to take proper safety precautions, despite countless warnings, has led to more than 1,500 positive diagnoses and 39 COVID-19 related deaths aboard Carnival-owned cruise ships (and counting). This lack of leadership has seriously endangered crew members and spotlights a strong case for negligence and unseaworthiness under the Jones Act.

How Carnival Has Mishandled the Coronavirus for Seamen 

For starters, Carnival made it difficult for passengers to cancel their trips and instead chose to strong-arm individuals who had already purchased tickets. Many of which offered no opportunity for any kind of refund, sending passengers and consequently crew members out to sea as late as mid-March in some instances. Many of Carnival’s plagued ships did not begin their voyages until after executives were well aware of the risks, having seen the disastrous outcome of the Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess. 

Cindy Friedman, the expert epidemiologist leading the CDC’s cruise ship task force, said: “I have a hard time believing they’re just a victim of happenstance.” 

As Carnival’s ships were being turned away from ship entries, executives and supervisors chose to provide crew members and passengers with misleading information. With nowhere to anchor or depart, Carnival chose to distract passengers with activities and pool parties. Casinos, bars, and buffets all stayed open for far too long. Keeping festivals and non-essential operations like Ping Pong tournaments, gyms, and Karaoke in continuance only furthered the spread of the virus - leaving crew members to tend to conceivably contagious crowds of passengers. 

What Does the Jones Act Mean for Cruise Ship Workers During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

A cruise ship worker who contracts the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel Coronavirus may have a Jones Act claim for negligence. In regards to the Jones Act, one could say injury and illness are synonymous in this instance since contracting COVID-19 can lead to serious respiratory complications and in many cases has resulted in death. Ill seamen may have a negligence claim if their injury or illness resulted from a careless or negligent act by their employer or coworker - such as the mismanagement of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Furthermore, shipowners can be held liable for unsafe vessel conditions. This is also known as “unseaworthiness”. Unseaworthiness under the Jones Act essentially means that a ship and its equipment must be safe and fit for the intended purpose. A cruise ship housing a passenger or crew member who has tested positive for COVID-19 would be considered unseaworthy, as the conditions aboard can be deemed as unsafe. Furthermore, if the ship or its equipment is not fit for its intended purpose, it's called strict liability - meaning the vessel owner is responsible for the crew’s safety.

Click here for more information about COVID-19 and negligence/unseaworthiness under the Jones Act. 

What Can Be Done? 

Carnival’s mishandling of the coronavirus has raised serious concerns about corporate negligence and unseaworthiness under the Jones Act. Carnival and its executives have become the paragon of the COVID-19 catastrophe among cruise lines - endangering thousands of crew members in the process. Their blatant disregard for decisive action and precautionary measures have put its crew members at a heightened risk of contracting COVID-19. 

If you are a crew member aboard a cruise line who’s been diagnosed with COVID-19 it is important that you contact an experienced maritime attorney to weigh your options as soon as possible. Our law firm has decades of experience battling maritime companies. Call 713-224-7800 or click here to contact us.