Inspections Questioned
Before the new coronavirus, the cruise industry had generally avoided large-scale litigation over infectious disease outbreaks at sea. Since 2006, there’d been fewer than 10 lawsuits filed over norovirus, the notorious gastrointestinal ailment that for years has ruined some passengers’ experiences.

Yet many of the Covid-19 lawsuits raise questions about the inspections that U.S. officials instituted in response to norovirus outbreaks. Plaintiffs in the Grand Princess suits claim the cruise operator didn’t adequately sanitize the vessel between voyages. And Winkleman, the Hernandezes’ lawyer, said he plans to focus part of his cases on Carnival’s record of ship inspections and history of outbreaks at sea.

The Costa Luminosa and the Grand Princess both have unremarkable inspection records. Ships need an 86 or higher to pass under the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program. The Costa Luminosa was last inspected on Jan. 5 and received a 94. The Grand Princess passed its last inspection in June with a 93.

The program subjects ships that dock at U.S. ports to surprise inspections twice a year. Since 2016, ships owned by Carnival fail about 3% of their inspections. Norwegian Cruise Line has the worst failure rate at 4% and Royal Caribbean’s rate is about 1%.

Carnival spokesman Roger Frizzell noted that the company makes up about half the industry, and said its ships “typically perform extremely well” during inspections. He said Carnival-owned ships have received the highest number of perfect scores as well.

For now, with cruises canceled and the industry in a kind of suspended animation, the lawsuits and their claims represent a potential challenge that cruise operators haven’t seen before, said Ross Klein, an associate dean at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada who has studied the cruise industry for more than two decades. “There are still a lot of ifs” about the success of the legal claims, he said, but the risk for the companies is there.

“The industry hasn’t had any calamitous losses – nothing that would be potentially as large as this if the cases proceed in court,” Klein said.

--With assistance from Christopher Palmeri, Jonathan Levin and Kevin Varley.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.

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