Ruby Princess passengers in court win

Ruby Princess passengers win class action over infamous ‘Covid cruise’ at the start of the pandemic

  • Ruby Princess operator was negligent, Federal Court rules
  • However, passenger did not win entire claim for damages 

A cruise liner which went ahead with a voyage that would lead to a major COVID-19 outbreak was negligent in its duty of care to passengers, the Federal Court has found. 

But a passenger who sought to claim damages for personal injuries and distress as a result of contracting the illness on board has been unsuccessful. 

Susan Karpik, a passenger on board the ill-fated Ruby Princess cruise that left 28 people dead from COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic, was the lead plaintiff in a class action against Australian charter company Carnival. 

Carnival trades under the Princess Cruises name and is the operator of the Ruby Princess, a Bermuda-registered vessel. 

A Ruby Princess cruise ship (pictured) which departed Sydney on March 8, 2020 quickly became one of the first major outbreaks of the virus suffered by Australians

Ms Karpik sought damages for personal injuries, distress and disappointment to the value of more than $360,000. 

Her individual claim revolved around the stress and disappointment caused by the illness of her husband Henry, who had to be placed in an induced four-week coma after contracting the virus, and his ongoing care. 

In total, 663 positive cases were reported among the 2641 passengers, including 1679 Australians on board. 

Twenty-eight people died during the outbreak. 

The Ruby Princess sailed from Sydney for New Zealand on a 13-day round trip, but returned 11 days later when Australia’s borders were shut in the early days of the pandemic in March 2020. 

READ MORE: The Ruby Princess was the best known – and arguably most disastrous – cruise ship in Australian history. But now passengers claim one of the cruellest blows was hidden in plain sight in the terms and conditions

Justice Angus Stewart found the cruise company knew or ought to have known about the heightened risk of COVID-19 infection on the vessel. 

‘To proceed with the cruise carried a significant risk of a coronavirus outbreak, with possible disastrous consequences, yet they proceeded regardless,’ he said on Wednesday. 

However, Justice Stewart found Ms Karpik did not suffer from long COVID and as a result did not meet the non-economic loss threshold required to recover personal damages. 

She was successful on a claim for out-of-pocket medical expenses totalling $4,423 plus interest. 

Justice Stewart found Ms Karpik was entitled to disappointment damages to compensate for the fact that the cruise was not a ‘happy and relaxing holiday’ as promised. 

However, as Carnival had already refunded all passengers the cost of the cruise, the judge found the company had already satisfied this claim. 

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