THE High Court passed down its verdict this morning in a class action lawsuit over a disastrous Ruby Princess cruise, which ended in 28 fatalities and saw 600 other passengers contract COVID-19.
Carnival Australia, which operates Princess Cruises, was found to have acted negligently when it went ahead with the voyage as the pandemic was breaking out around the world. It did, however, rule that the lead plaintiff had already been sufficiently compensated by the company.
While stating verdict this morning, Justice Angus Stewart voiced it was “doubtful it was possible (for the Ruby Princess) to provide cruising…that was safe, relaxing and pleasurable” when it departed from Sydney in March 2020.
He added that, given there had been previous outbreaks on other Carnival ships including the Grand Princess at the time, the company’s decision to go ahead with the sailing “carried a significant risk…and yet they proceeded regardless”.
The verdict also stated that Carnival Australia made “misleading representations” that the cruise would be “reasonably safe” in communications with passengers prior to the cruise.
The judge argued that the outcome may have been different had the cruise operator warned passengers about the heightened risk of contracting the virus, implemented screenings and physical distancing, and isolated the ill passengers onboard from 11 March onwards.
Carnival responded to the outcome, with a spokesperson saying the company is “considering [the judgment] in detail” and also acknowledging “the pandemic was a difficult time in Australia’s history, and we understand how heartbreaking it was for those affected”.
The matter is set to undergo a further case management hearing and final orders on 10 November.