In a class action ruling by the Federal Court of Australia, Carnival’s Australian division has been ordered to pay the medical expenses of a woman who contracted Covid-19 on its Ruby Princess cruise ship during the early days of the pandemic.
The judge, Justice Angus Stewart, ruled that Carnival Australia had misled passengers about the measures it had in place to protect them from the virus. Stewart also found that the company should have cancelled its March 2020 return cruise from Sydney to New Zealand on the Ruby Princess.
The court awarded lead plaintiff Susan Karpik A$4,423.48 for out-of-pocket medical expenses. It did not grant damages, however.
Karpik – who had been travelling on the ship when her husband Henry fell ill with Covid-19 – had originally claimed over A$360,000 in damages, in part due to the distress caused by husband’s two-month hospitalisation with the virus. At one point, he was given only days to live.
Further plaintiff payments expected
The court is expected to now consider the claims of the remaining parties in the case – which has around 1,000 Australian plaintiffs, including Henry Karpik.
A further 700 US passengers may be included in the class action, pending a ruling by the Australian High Court. A decision on that is expected in late 2023 or early 2024.
Vicky Antzoulatos, Joint Head of Class Actions at Shine Lawyers – the law firm representing the Australian claimants – told Reuters: “Although the judge found Mrs Karpik didn’t meet the threshold for pain and suffering damages, other passengers will. The case in point is Mrs Karpik’s husband, who was in intensive care for weeks and suffered serious injuries.”
Carnival Australia said in a statement it was considering the judgement in detail. The operator denied during the case that it knew prior to the voyage that the risk of contracting Covid-19 was higher on a cruise ship than in ordinary circumstances.
Alex Wright explored the current provision of assistance to cruise passengers in the August 2023 issue of ITIJ.