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Texas Woman Sues Princess Cruise Lines For Negligence In Husband's Coronavirus Death

LOS ANGELES (CBSDFW.COM) – A Texas woman is suing Princess Cruise lines after, according to her attorney, it knowingly exposed her and her husband to the coronavirus.

Susan Dorety's lawsuit says the company prevented her husband, Michael from leaving the ship while his health deteriorated, leading him to ultimately die alone days later in a California hospital.

"The CDC people asked me what took me so long to get him off the ship, because of the condition he was in, it was so bad," Susan said. "And I was crying over in the corner of the tent saying 'I've been trying for two days to get him off the ship'."

She also contracted COVID-19 but recovered.

Susan and Michael, who's a retired firefighter Dallas firefighter, boarded the Grand Princess cruise ship on February 21, in San Francisco to celebrate their 40th anniversary.

There were passengers who had COVID-19 symptoms, according to her lawsuit, that had just disembarked while more than 60 others were allowed to remain on-board after likely exposure to the virus.

Susan Dorety and her husband Michael, a retired firefighter, of Crowley, Texas, boarded the Grand Princess cruise ship in San Francisco to celebrate their 40th anniversary. (credit; Dorety family)

Four days after the Doretys boarded, on Feb. 25, Princess Cruise Lines emailed the previous passengers who were no longer on the ship, alerting them that they were exposed to the coronavirus. But there was no warning to the new passengers including the Doretys, according to the lawsuit.

"It is shocking to me that a cruise line that had just discharged coronavirus-infected passengers took on board a new group of passengers to then mingle with others who had been exposed. Princess had notice of the dangers, the Doretys did not," said Rusty Hardin of Rusty Hardin & Associates of Houston, who represents Mrs. Dorety.

In addition, when a crew member with COVID-19 symptoms left the Grand Princess in Hawaii, there still was no alert to passengers, according to the lawsuit. Dorety says she and her husband would have disembarked there had they known about the risks to their health.

On April 7, the company released the following statement, reading in part:

"The health and safety of our crew remains a top priority. Prior to the crew quarantine, testing was done on any crew member who showed symptoms of COVID-19. Crew with symptoms were medically disembarked, or isolated on board until they met the CDC definition for recovery. All crew were quarantined for 14 days to monitor symptoms and to reduce the possibility of transmission if they became symptomatic. This quarantine plan was developed and implemented under the guidelines of the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program."

"The behavior of Princess Cruise Lines is all the more outrageous because just a few weeks earlier, one of their ships had a coronavirus outbreak infecting 700 people while docked in Japan," said Hardin. "This cruise line company put money ahead of its passengers' well-being, and it cost Michael Dorety his life."

After two weeks on the cruise, passengers were placed in quarantine off the California coast, and Michael fell ill. Susan called the ship's emergency line multiple times, but no one responded. Her husband became weak with fever. A ship's doctor examined him, giving him Tylenol and Tamiflu, but the couple was not advised until later that they could leave the ship for medical treatment, the lawsuit states.

Michael died in an Oakland hospital days later -- alone -- without family by his side.

The lawsuit, filed April 14, seeks damages for negligence, gross negligence and for other unlawful acts.

According to the Centers For Disease Control, outbreaks of COVID-19 on cruise ships pose a risk for rapid spread of disease beyond the voyage. Aggressive efforts are required to contain spread.

CBS 11 News reached out to the Princess Cruise line for comment about the lawsuit, but they didn't respond.

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