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A Texas woman filed a lawsuit this week against Princess Cruise Lines, alleging negligence in the death of her husband, who she says contracted and died from COVID-19 while on a cruise aboard the Grand Princess to celebrate the couple’s 40th wedding anniversary.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal court in Los Angeles, seeks in excess of $1 million in damages for the death of Michael Dorety, 68, on March 20.

It accuses the cruise line of knowingly exposing the couple to the novel coronavirus, failing to disclose the danger in a timely manner and “for preventing her husband from leaving the ship while his health deteriorated, leading him to ultimately die alone days later in a California hospital,” according to a statement issued by law firm Rusty Hardin & Associates of Houston, which is representing Susan Dorety.

Princess Cruise Lines issued a statement responding to the allegations, but declined to discuss the specifics of the case.

“Princess Cruises has been sensitive to the difficulties the COVID-19 outbreak has caused to our guests and crew,” the statement said. “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. We do not comment on any pending litigation.”

The cruise line is incorporated in Bermuda and has its headquarters in Santa Clarita, the lawyers said.

Michael and Susan Dorety boarded the Grand Princess on Feb. 21 in San Francisco to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, according to the complaint. Michael Dorety had retired after 39 years as a firefighter in Texas.

“Little did they know that some passengers who had COVID-19 symptoms had just disembarked while more than 60 others were allowed to remain on-board after they had been exposed to the virus,” according to the law firm.

Previous passengers who had already disembarked the ship were notified of their potential exposure to the virus four days later, but the new passengers on board the ship were not alerted to the risk, the claim states.

“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,” attorney Rusty Hardin of Hardin & Associates said in a witten statement. “Princess had notice of the dangers, the Doretys did not.”

Passengers were ultimately quarantined on the ship after two weeks at sea, the attorneys said.

“Mrs. Dorety called the ship’s emergency line multiple times, but no one responded. Her husband became weak and was shivering and feverish as his health deteriorated,” according to the law firm’s statement. “A ship’s doctor came at last, giving him Tylenol and Tamiflu, but the couple was not advised until later that they could leave the ship for medical treatment.”

Susan Dorety also contracted COVID-19.

Once released from the ship, “Michael Dorety was immediately taken to a hospital where he spent
days suffering in agony,” according to the complaint. “Michael Dorety tested positive for COVID-19 and struggled to stay alive.”

“The doctor called Susan Dorety to tell her that her husband was dying. Susan Dorety and her children listened as the doctor counted down Michael Dorety’s heartbeats until he was gone,” the complaint states. “Michael Dorety died alone.”

“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,” Hardin said. “This cruise line company put money ahead of its passengers’ well-being, and it cost Michael Dorety his life.”

Michael and Susan Dorety, pictured in an undated photo obtained by KTLA.
Michael and Susan Dorety, pictured in an undated photo obtained by KTLA.