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Covid & cruise ships

The cruise industry has atleast two reasons to be cheerful about in these gloomy Covid times. The first was US Court's ruling in July that Covid 'fear cases' cannot be brought against ship owners, and now in The Coral Princess [2020] the same court has provided them a safe harbour under the archaic Death on the High Seas Act when the passenger contracts Covid on high seas.

An elderly couple joined the vessel in Chile and some days later several passengers reported Covid like symptoms. Free movement of passengers was not restricted for weeks. By this time the elderly couple had also fallen ill. After docking in Miami, there was a delay of several hrs before they were taken to a hospital. Within 2 hrs of being admitted the husband passed away.

Deceased’s wife claimed that owners were negligent in exposing them to Covid and that their acts took place not only onboard but - also in their HQ on land where all decisions were taken, and also at the port of Miami. This was an attempt to side step the applicability of DHSA which provided a generous limitation to owners.

Court said - the passenger clearly contracted Covid while the ship was on high seas and DHSA was applicable. As one news outlet put it 'recovery may amount to little more than burial costs' under this Act.

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