Federal Court hands down judgment in Ruby Princess class action

25 October 2023

In Karpik v Carnival PLC (The Ruby Princess) [2023] FCA 1280 the Federal Court awarded damages to a plaintiff in a class action arising from a COVID 19 outbreak on the Ruby Princess cruise ship. The proceedings concerned a 13 day cruise that departed from Sydney at the outbreak of the COVID 19 Pandemic in early 2020.

2671 passengers were on board with 1,146 crew. The outbreak on the cruise led to more than 600 infections and a number of deaths.

The class action claimed the cruise was, under the Australian Consumer Law, not fit for the purpose of providing a "safe, relaxing and pleasurable cruise." The Court held that given the heightened risk of contracting COVID 19 on the cruise compared to in the community generally, it was doubtful that it was possible to provide a fit for purpose cruise at the the time the ship left Sydney.

The Court also upheld a negligence claim and a related consumer law claim that Carnival had failed to render the cruise with "due care and skill." The Court held that before the cruise departed, Carnival knew or ought to have known of the heightened risk of infection on the cruise, and the procedures in place were unlikely to screen out infectious staff and passengers.

Carnival had already refunded the cost of cruise tickets to passengers. Ms Karpik had a mild COVID infection on the cruise which did not exceed the whole person impairment threshold. She was awarded her out of pocket medical expenses and $4,400 in damages for distress and disappointment which can be set off against the refund.

The decision paves the way for the balance of class members to resolve their claims with Carnival.

Ryan May
appeared as junior counsel for the class action led by Ian Pike SC and Andrew Naylor on instructions from Vicky Antzoulatos of Shine Lawyers.