Legal Roundup: Coronavirus Lawsuits Rolling In, Toys R Us Execs on the Hook and More

The latest court decisions impacting risk management and the insurance industry.
By: | March 17, 2020

Couple Sues Princess Cruises After Contracting Coronavirus 

The Case: Ronald and Eva Weissberger have sued Princess Cruises for $1 million after contracting coronavirus while aboard one of the company’s cruise ships.

They claim the company’s approach to safety was “lackadaisical” and put them at risk, according to The Guardian.

Twenty-one people on board fell ill: “They allege the cruise line failed to put in place preventive measures, including more rigorous screening for those boarding the ship and an opportunity for people to disembark in Hawaii,” the newspaper reported.

Scorecard: The case is in its early stages. Princess Cruises said it has not yet been served with the lawsuit, and that it “has been sensitive to the difficulties the Covid-19 outbreak has caused to our guests and crew,” according to a statement published in The Guardian.

Takeaway. It’s not the first lawsuit stemming from the coronavirus outbreak — and it won’t be the last.

The City of Costa Mesa, California successfully challenged the federal government’s plan to house at least 35 coronavirus patients there from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Meanwhile, televangelist Jim Bakker has been sued by the state of Missouri for using his TV show to sell a fake coronavirus cure.

Creditors Sue Ex-Toys ‘R’ Us Execs Over Bankruptcy Bonuses

The Case: A group of creditors have sued executives at Toys ‘R’ Us for $1.1 billion. They claim company leaders like chief executive David Brandon lined their pockets with bonuses while Toys ‘R’ Us was facing bankruptcy and its eventual demise.

The New York Post reports that executives are alleged to have issued themselves $16 million worth of bonuses on the evening before the company’s 2017 bankruptcy and “scored bonuses that boosted their total pay by 75 percent” just days earlier.

“Brandon pocketed $2.8 million, the suit claims. By contrast, the toy seller’s vendors barely received 20 cents on the dollar in the company’s bankruptcy,” the Post reports.

Scorecard: The case is still in its early stages. Attorneys for the company’s board of directors denied the allegations and vowed to defend the lawsuit vigorously, according to the Post.

Takeaway: When a bankruptcy occurs, vendors often struggle to recoup outstanding fees.

USA Swimming Settles Sexual Abuse Case with Olympic Swimmer 

The Case: Ariana Kukors Smith, who swam in the 2012 Olympic Games in London, sued USA Swimming, claiming she had been abused by her coach Sean Hutchison.

Smith claimed that Hutchison “began grooming her for a relationship when she was 13 years old and was molesting her by age 16” and said the organization’s 2010 investigation was quickly closed “because Mr. Hutchison delivered Olympic-level athletes,” according to the New York Times.

Hutchison denied the allegations. 

Scorecard: USA Swimming and Smith settled the case for an undisclosed amount.

USA Swimming said, according to the Times: “As expressed earlier this year, we respect Ariana Kukors’ bravery in stepping forward and sharing her story. We have been in regular contact with her legal team over the last several months and will continue to work with them and Ariana through this process.”

Takeaway: The case conjures up images of Larry Nasser, the former doctor found guilty of abusing USA Gymnastics athletes. He’s serving 40 to 175 years for his crimes. Meanwhile USA Gymnastics has seen two presidents step down since the cases went public. &

Jared Shelly is a journalist based in Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected].