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South Florida Firm Files Million-Dollar Lawsuit Against Princess Cruises In COVID-19 Death

MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- A South Florida firm has filed a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a California family against Princess Cruises, citing gross negligence on behalf of the cruise line.

Chung Chen, 64, was a passenger on the March 8 sailing of the Ruby Princess out of Sydney, Australia. Chen traveled on the ship with his wife, Juishan Hsu, and their 21-year-old daughter, Vivian. Each member of the family tested positive for the coronavirus upon returning from Australia. Mr. Chen died on April 4.

"The three of them were really looking forward to this and it turned out to be a total nightmare actually," said Debi Chalik, with Chalik & Chalik, the firm representing the family.

The federal lawsuit is seeking more than a million dollars in damages.

"Princess Cruises was negligent in sailing on March 8," Chalik told CBS4 on Friday. "They already dealt with three prior outbreaks of COVID 19 on their cruise ships. They were well-aware of the risk they were taking by sailing on March 8."

Cruise liner Ruby Princess sits in the harbour in Port Kembla, 80km south of Sydney after coming in to refuel and restock on April 6, 2020. (Photo by PETER PARKS / AFP) (Photo by PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images)

Chalik said when the family arrived in Sydney on March 8, they were unaware there had previously been an outbreak of COVID-19 aboard the Ruby Princess and were delayed boarding for six hours without explanation.

"They were apparently trying to clean the ship and have it ready to sail out again despite the widespread infection that became apparent when on the earlier sailing, approximately 200 passengers and crew members showed symptoms of the virus," the South Florida personal injury law firm said in a press release Thursday.

The lawsuit alleges gross negligence and states "Princess' corporate office chose to place profits over the safety of its passengers, crew, and the general public in continuing to operate business as usual."

The suit also states if the family had known the risk of exposure prior to boarding they "would have never boarded the ship" on March 8.

The ship returned to Sydney three days early on March 18.

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Mr. Chen and his family flew back to California that day, according to the family's attorney. Chung Chen died on April 4. His wife and daughter have since recovered from COVID-19.

"They are doing as well as can be expected," attorney Chalik said. "Deeply saddened obviously by their loss. In shock. It all happened so quickly. This was not a sick man, so all of a sudden to lose your father and husband on a dream vacation is really rather shocking."

The cruise line did not immediately return our request for comment.

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