Disney Cruise Line faces four lawsuits filed this past week by passengers from Arizona and Utah who claim they contracted COVID-19 during a cruise at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, News 6 partner Florida Today reports.
The plaintiffs in the case allege that Disney would not allow them to cancel or reschedule their cruise on the Fantasy cruise ship scheduled from March 7-14 last year despite concerns about the coronavirus and the passengers’ autoimmune conditions and compromised health.
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In the lawsuits filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, the plaintiffs allege that “Disney knew of the dangerous conditions associated with COVID-19, including its extreme contagiousness, before the subject voyage” out of Port Canaveral.
The plaintiffs said normal activities remained open during the cruise and that passengers were often crowded together in small areas, despite the known risks.
Disney spokeswoman Cynthia Martinez said the company denies the allegations made in the lawsuits and said proper protocol was maintained based on the recommendations at the time.
“Our thoughts continue to be with those around the world who have been affected by COVID-19. We disagree with the allegations and will respond to them in court,” Martinez said in an emailed statement.
“No guests or crew reported symptoms of COVID-19 while aboard the Disney Fantasy during the March 7, 2020, sailing. Disney Cruise Line communicated health and safety information with guests in advance of and during their sailing and had numerous protocols in place at the time.”
Disney’s website also features a COVID-19 warning for guests and passengers that reads: “By sailing with Disney Cruise Line you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.”
All four suits are similar in nature, with the plaintiffs saying they were concerned about existing health conditions and claiming Disney wouldn’t allow them to cancel or reschedule the cruise.
Court records identify the plaintiffs as Arizona residents Judy Parkin and Krystal Skinner, as well as Utah residents Kailee Taylor and Scott and Jana Olsen.
The Olsens said their family began experiencing COVID-19 symptoms while aboard the ship and tested positive for the virus shortly after their return.
The couple’s minor child, who suffers an unspecified autoimmune condition, was admitted to the intensive care unit shortly after the cruise with a high fever and difficulty breathing, according to the complaint.
Krystal Skinner of Arizona said she and her children who have autoimmune conditions and asthma contracted the novel coronavirus. She claimed Disney did not take the proper precautions to maintain social distancing onboard.
In the lawsuits, the plaintiffs’ argument outlines how a previous coronavirus outbreak on a Carnival cruise ship infected 700 passengers, causing the ship to anchor at a Japanese harbor for two weeks. That incident should have served as a warning for Disney, according to the complaints.
Miami maritime law firm Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman P.A. is representing all four plaintiffs in the case. The firm did not respond to a request for comment as of Monday afternoon.
The U.S. Department of State did not begin recommending Americans not travel on cruise ships until the day after the Fantasy set sail last year. The Fantasy sailed its entire voyage, but the buffet was suspended two days before it returned to Port Canaveral, according to Disney.
Since then, all cruise ships sailings have been halted. Some are scheduled to resume in May.
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