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Fear of Contracting COVID-19 – Patrick Hammon examines recent court decision

In his byline article for The Recorder, partner Patrick Hammon discusses the Weissberger v. Princess Cruise Lines decision, which could shed light on how courts treat emotional distress claims based on exposure to a risk of contracting COVID-19. The plaintiffs in the case did not test positive for the virus or suffer symptoms from it during their vacation on the Grand Princess, but they sued the cruise line to recover damages for their fear of contracting the virus while quarantined on the ship.

Patrick explains that the court analyzed the plaintiffs’ claims under federal maritime law, which requires a plaintiff to satisfy the “zone of danger” test.  The plaintiffs argued that they “needed only to demonstrate that they suffered a ‘near miss’ with the disease. Symptoms were not necessary.” The judge sided with the cruise line however, refusing to create a “cruise-ship exception” to the zone-of-danger test.

According to Patrick, “The Weissberger decision, which has yet to be followed by any other court and by its express terms only applied federal maritime law, suggests that liability will not extend to emotional distress claims brought by uninfected employees, sports fans, students and prisoners should outbreaks of the disease occur.”

To read the full article, visit The Recorder.