Couple on Grand Princess cruise ship carrying coronavirus patients sues for $1 million

"(Princess Cruise Lines) chose to place profits over the safety of its passengers, crew and the general public," the lawsuit alleges.

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By Minyvonne Burke

A couple who was aboard a cruise ship carrying passengers who tested positive for coronavirus has filed a $1 million lawsuit, alleging that the company exposed them to the disease.

Ronald Weissberger, 74, and his wife, Eva Weissberger, 69, of Broward County, Florida, boarded the Grand Princess in San Francisco on Feb. 21 for what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation to Hawaii.

The ship was on its way back to California when it was told on March 4 to anchor off the coast after people on the vessel tested positive for coronavirus.

Vice President Mike Pence said Friday that among the more than 3,500 people aboard the ship, 21 were infected with the disease.

After several days of being anchored off the coast, the ship arrived to a port in Oakland on Monday and passengers were allowed to begin disembarking. Passengers are now being sent to quarantine centers at military bases in California, Texas and Georgia.

The Weissbergers filed their lawsuit that same day in the Central District of California in Los Angeles against Princess Cruise Lines, saying that the company's negligence exposed them to COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus, and it should have done more to keep travelers safe.

"Defendant Princess chose to place profits over the safety of its passengers, crew and the general public," the lawsuit states.

According to the suit, several passengers on the Grand Princess had traveled on its previous voyage to Mexico and had been exposed to the coronavirus after people on the first trip fell ill and later tested positive for the disease.

Princess Cruise Lines did not alert the Weissbergers or other passengers prior to them boarding, the lawsuit alleges.

"Knowing that some of those passengers and crew had already been exposed to COVID-19, the Defendant has exposed Plaintiff's to actual risk of immediate physical injury," it states, adding that it was the ship's duty to "ensure that they would not be exposed to unreasonable risk of harm."

The lawsuit also accused the ship of failing to properly screen passengers prior to them boarding. According to the suit, passengers were asked to fill out a form saying they were not sick.

"Not one passenger was questioned, let alone examined in any capacity," the lawsuit claims.

After learning that people had become infected with the disease, the suit says the Weissbergers and other passengers were quarantined in their cabins.

Debi Chalik, the Weissbergers' daughter who is also one of their attorneys, told NBC News on Tuesday that her parents said that staff on the Grand Princess did not properly communicate with guests while they were quarantined.

Ronald and Eva Weissberger also said the ship had started to run low on food, Chalik said.

“They said the last two days there was not a lot of food," she said. "They were given turkey stuffing for breakfast.”

The couple was able to get off the ship Monday night and were taken to a military base near Sacramento where they will be quarantined for two weeks, according to Chalik. Neither of her parents are sick or showing symptoms, but Ronald Weissberger has heart issues.

Chalik said she had to mail her father more of his heart medication.

“I’m worried, upset and angry because this whole debacle could have been avoided. The screening getting on the ship was next to nothing,” she said, adding that her parents would not have gotten on the cruise if they had known about the coronavirus risks.

Ronald and Eva Weissberger are suing for negligence and said they suffered emotional distress and are traumatized by the fear of developing the disease.

Princess Cruise Lines did not immediately return NBC News' request for comment.