Pujiyoko, a 27-year old Indonesian national, died after Royal Caribbean encouraged its employees to “party”–despite CDC warnings instructing cruise lines to protect employees and passengers.
Royal Caribbean Cruises is being sued by the family of one of its employees, who died after contracting novel coronavirus aboard one of the company’s ships.
The wrongful death lawsuit was filed in a Miami circuit court by relatives of Pujiyoko.
(Pujiyoko, says The Associated Press, used only one name—a not-uncommon convention in his home country of Indonesia)
Pujiyoko, a 27-year old Indonesian national, worked as a housekeeper aboard Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas. In mid-march, the ship disembarked its passengers in Miami. And despite increasing concerns about coronavirus, Royal Caribbean encouraged Pujiyoko and other employees to “roam free” for nearly two weeks. They were “encouraged to attend parties, shows, events and activities,” without providing guidance on social distancing or infection prevention.
Within weeks, Pujiyoko contracted coronavirus. And by the middle of April, he died from it.
His father, says Fox Business, alleges that Royal Caribbean was “careless,” refusing to advise employees on the pandemic despite “receiving prior notice pertaining to the dangerous conditions and/or explosive contagiousness associated with COVID-19 aboard its vessels.”
“The dangerous conditions associated with COVID-19 also include its extreme contagiousness,” the lawsuit states. “For example, a person with COVID-19 infects, on average, another 2.5 people, and COVID-19 is therefore more contagious than Ebola or Influenza.”
The lawsuit further asserts that Royal Caribbean “negligently exposed and is currently exposing thousands of its crewmembers to COVID-19.”
Fox notes that Pujiyoko was a contracted employee who’d worked with Royal Caribbean for five years. His most recent contract with the company began in July 2019 and ran through March 21st.
However, Royal Caribbean terminated Pujiyoko’s contract on March 13th,2020. He was nevertheless encouraged to stay aboard Symphony of the Seas.
Ten days later, on March 23rd, Pujiyoko visited the ship’s medical office, complaining of “flu-like symptoms.” Although Pujiyoko tested positive for influenza, his condition quickly worsened. In less than a week, he had pneumonia and was reliant on oxygen supplements.
By the end of March, Pujiyoko was admitted to Symphony of the Seas’ intensive care unit, where he was diagnosed with coronavirus. On the 30th, he was transferred to Broward Health Medical Center, where he remained until his death on April 11th.
The lawsuit contends that, by the middle of March, Royal Caribbean was aware that its vessels, passengers, and crew had most likely been exposed to coronavirus.
“Despite having notice that COVID-19 was and/or likely was present aboard the vessels, RCCL glaringly failed to follow even the most basic safety precautions after acquiring such notice,” the lawsuit says. Instead, Royal Caribbean “allowed its crewmembers to eat in buffet settings abord the vessels, mandated their participation in shipboard drills, and even permitted crewmembers to attend crew parties.”
The lawsuit references a memo issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean: in it, the CDC offered advice on how passengers and crew should be dealt amidst the emerging coronavirus crisis.
Pujiyoko’s family, however, may be limited in its ability to seek recompense. The Associated Press notes that Pujiyoko, like many Royal Caribbean contractors, had signed an arbitration agreement which limits his ability to sue.
Michael Winkleman, a maritime lawyer representing Pujiyoko’s family, said he plans to argue that such arbitration agreements aren’t applicable in cases like his clients’, because Royal Caribbean terminated Pujiyoko’s contract prior to the man’s death.