A court has ruled that the cruise ship company at the centre of a major Covid outbreak should have cancelled the Ruby Princess trip that led to 28 deaths.
The Ruby Princess outbreak resulted in almost 700 passengers becoming infected with the virus.
A judgment handed down in the Federal Court on Wednesday found Carnival Australia negligent in allowing the ship to set sail on March 8, 2020.
“There are a number of considerations that have led me to conclude that cancellation of the cruise would not have been so burdensome that a reasonable person in the respondents’ position would not have cancelled the cruise,” Justice Angus Stewart said in his summary on Wednesday.
Retired nurse Susan Karpik was the lead applicant in the class action.
Ms Karpik’s husband Henry fell ill with Covid-19 after boarding the cruise ship. He became very ill and required intubation and ventilation, was placed into an induced coma, and at one point was given only a few days to live.
He spent nearly two months in hospital.
Justice Stewart found that it was most likely the couple both contracted the virus while on-board the cruise, probably during the crowded safety muster shortly after boarding.
In a statement issued by Shine Lawyers on Wednesday, Ms Karpik said she was “pleased with the outcome” but it was only a “partial win”.
“It’s of course only a partial win as 28 lives were lost on this cruise,” she said.
“There are many individuals and families who will never recover from this loss.”
Mrs Karpik sought damages of more than $360,000 for personal injuries and distress and disappointment as a result of the Covid outbreak.
However, she will only receive $4423.48 plus interest for her out-of-pocket medical expenses.
Shine Lawyers joint head of class actions Vicky Antzoulatos, who ran the case, said “today is a warning for cruise companies to put passengers ahead of profits”.
“Carnival should now do the right thing and compensate all the passengers rather than prolong the matter through further litigation,” she said.
The class-action trial started more than a year ago and is the first in world to successfully take on a cruise company, according to Shine Lawyers.
The group alleged the cruise outbreak was a result of the company’s failure to take appropriate measures to ensure passengers were safe and protected from contracting the virus.
They also claimed that the company breached its consumer guarantee under Australian Consumer Law.
The decision comes after Carnival Australia argued that 696 passengers who purchased their tickets from a US company, whose terms and conditions contained a class-action waiver clause, shouldn’t be included in the class action.
The High Court is yet to determine this issue.