The family of a 74-year-old Whitehall Township man who died of COVID-19 after a cruise vacation has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Carnival Corp. and its subsidiary Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. in California federal court, alleging the cruise lines failed to properly address the onboard outbreak.
Carl E. Weidner, a father, kidney cancer survivor and retired Bethlehem Steel worker, died on March 26. His son, Christopher Weidner of Allentown, the plaintiff, claims in the suit filed Monday that Carl was forced to die alone in a hospital room.
“He was so weakened by the disease that a nurse had to hold a phone to his ear in order to talk to his loved ones,” said Mary Alexander, the attorney representing the family. “Ultimately, rather than passing away surrounded by his family, Carl was cared for by medical staff in hazmat suits and prayed for by a minister standing outside his room.”
Representatives of Princess Cruises said in a statement Tuesday the cruise line has been sensitive to the difficulties the coronavirus pandemic has caused to its guests and crew.
“Our response throughout this process has focused on the well-being of our guests and crew within the parameters dictated to us by the government agencies involved and the evolving medical understanding of this new illness,” the statement reads. “We do not comment on any pending litigation.”
Carl brought his longtime girlfriend, Annette Gibbons of Palmer Township, on the trip in late February. The pair arrived in San Francisco before boarding the Hawaii-bound Grand Princess cruise on Feb. 21. The cruise continued on to various Hawaiian islands. On Feb, 25, passengers on the vessel’s previous San Francisco-Mexico trip received emails of a potential COVID-19 exposure from the cruise line, but passengers on the San Francisco-Hawaii vessel received no notice, the suit alleges. The ship left Hawaii by Feb. 29 but safety precautions, such as hand washing, sanitizing and avoiding contact with those who might be ill, didn’t begin on the ship until around March 4, according to the suit.
By March 4, the suit alleges, passengers aboard the Hawaii trip on the Grand Princess began suffering from COVID-19 symptoms and an advisory instructed anyone with symptoms to contact the ship’s medical center. The next day — two weeks after the ship set sail — there were operational changes, such as cabin/stateroom quarantine, meal service within the rooms, and cessation of daily turndown services and communal activities, the suit states.
Other events in the “Princess Patter,” the ship’s daily onboard newsletter continued, including a formal night and its associated dinner as planned, the suit claims. Alexander, the attorney, said Gibbons recalled the buffet line did not offer ample sanitizer for patrons and the salt and pepper shakers were handled by numerous people.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom went on to declare a state of emergency on March 4. With concern about a potential outbreak aboard the Grand Princess, the ship was not allowed to re-enter the San Francisco port and had to be anchored for five days off the coast before being escorted into an Oakland, California port by the Coast Guard, Alexander told lehighvalleylive.com.
Carl was diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, shortly after he disembarked March 9. A bus ride to the Travis Air Force Base took more than three hours, where Carl was in close proximity to other disembarked passengers, according to the suit.
Carl came down with a fever that started at 101 F. at the base and was taken to a California Pacific Medical Center, according to the suit and Alexander. He spent about two weeks at the hospital, being placed on a ventilator, and eventually placed into a medically-induced coma before succumbing to the illness, the suit states.
The suit alleges the cruise line was more interested in making profits when it failed to alert the San Francisco-Hawaii passengers that passengers from the prior Mexico trip had COVID-19 symptoms and crew remaining on board were exposed to the virus. The companies learned of a potential outbreak on the round-trip San Francisco-Mexico cruise in mid-February but completed that voyage uninterrupted and reloaded passengers on the Grand Princess for the San Francisco-Hawaii trip, according to the suit.
“Defendants knew or should have known that by failing to proactively warn passengers — including decedent — and by failing to take actions to limit opportunities for viral spread, they risked serious personal injury and/or death to their passengers,” the suit states. “Nevertheless, defendants consciously disregarded the known high probability of injury and/or death and chose to instead pursue profits rather than protect the public and their customers.”
There were 1,000 crew members and 62 passengers from the Mexican voyage that continued on the ship for the Hawaii cruise, Alexander told lehighvalleylive.com. At least two people had symptoms of COVID-19, she said.
The suit claims Carl’s ultimate death was “the direct and proximate result of his exposure to the virus on the ship due to Defendants’ failure to take any effective measures to prevent or mitigate the spread of COVID-19 onboard the Grand Princess.”
The suit goes after Carnival Corp. and its subsidiary Princess Cruise Lines Ltd. with common law negligence and gross negligence claims as well as a negligence claim under the Death on the High Seas Act. The family is seeking unspecified damages.
“We will be asking for a substantial amount in compensation for this death, the specific amount to be determined by a jury,” Alexander told lehighvalleylive.com.
“What makes Carl’s death even more tragic is that this was entirely preventable because Princess failed at every turn to inform passengers, properly clean its boat or take proper safety precautions,” Alexander said. “Carl was able to win his fight against cancer, but he was taken down by Princess Cruise Line’s extreme negligence and dishonesty.”
According to Carl’s obituary, he worked for the former Bethlehem Steel for more than 30 years as a millwright. He was an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan and enjoyed vacationing in Ocean City, Maryland; Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; and cruising various parts of the world. He was born in Catasauqua.Read Full Story At LehighValleyLive.com