Suit claims man died after virus outbreak
By Vanessa Blum
January 21 2006
The family of a 21-year-old Michigan man who died two days after returning from a weeklong Caribbean cruise has brought a class-action lawsuit against Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines.
The suit, filed Wednesday in Miami federal court, seeks to recover $20 million on behalf of passengers who became ill on a January 2005 voyage of the Carnival Miracle.
According to the suit, several passengers developed flu-like symptoms after consuming food or water aboard the ship that was contaminated with the norovirus — a type of virus that causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
“The Defendant breached their duty to prepare and provide food and/or water that was fit for human consumption, healthful and suitable for all persons,” the suit charges.
The Miracle returned to Florida on Jan. 30, 2005. Two days later, Jonathan Kallas, a second-year chemistry student at the University of Michigan, died at his home near Flint, Mich. The cause of death was identified as “norovirus infection and complications thereof.”
Jennifer de la Cruz, a spokeswoman for Carnival, said in a statement that the company had not yet reviewed the class-action lawsuit, but defended the cruise line’s health record.
“Carnival Cruise Lines has a very low incidence of gastrointestinal outbreaks, despite carrying more than 3 million guests per year,” de la Cruz wrote. “In the relatively few cases that do occur, joint CDC/Carnival investigations show that cases are most commonly caused by guests who bring the illness onto the ship.”
Outbreaks of gastrointestinal illnesses aboard cruise ships have haunted the cruise industry in recent years. In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control documented outbreaks on 17 ships. The Carnival’s Miracle was not among them.
Kenneth Hardin II, a Michigan lawyer who represents Kallas’ parents and widow along with several other cruise passengers, said that Carnival did not report an outbreak on the Miracle.
“I’m 100 percent sure these passengers got sick from food or water on the ship. There is no plausible explanation that they got it any place else,” Hardin said.
Kallas was on vacation with his parents, wife and daughter. Family members say he loved the ocean.
When he began to feel ill midway through the cruise, he didn’t think it was anything serious, his mother Diane Kallas said Friday. After returning to Michigan on Jan. 30, her son went to work at the family’s heating and cooling company.
On Feb. 1, he left work early, complaining that he was tired and couldn’t get warm. Kallas’ wife discovered his body that evening.
“I can’t put into words how this feels,” Diane Kallas said. “The grief is overwhelming and consumes your life.”
Vanessa Blum can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4605.