The Ruby Princess cruise ship departs Port Kembla in Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia, on April 23 2020. File Photo by Dean Lewins/EPA-EFE
Oct. 25 (UPI) -- A federal court in Australia ruled Wednesday that Carnival Australia broke the country's consumer law for communication in assuring passengers of safety aboard the Ruby Princess in 2020 before an onboard COVID-19 outbreak.
Twenty-eight deaths were linked to the March 2020 cruise from Sydney, with more than 660 testing positive for the coronavirus. Passengers sued in a class action, claiming the company and its owner/operator Princess Cruise Lines misled passengers about safety and that its actions once the outbreak occurred were significantly lacking.
Vicky Antzoulatos, an attorney for the plaintiffs, called the court decision a victory for the passengers. They will next need to prove individual damages unless Carnival decides to settle the claims.
The Ruby Princess left Sydney for a 13-day cruise to New Zealand and back, but returned early because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Justice Angus Stewart agreed that the cruise company knew or ought to have known about the heightened risk of COVID-19 infections on the ship.
"To proceed with the cruise carried a significant risk of a coronavirus outbreak, with possible disastrous consequences, yet they proceeded regardless," Stewart said.
Susan Karpik, the lead plaintiff in the case, won more than $4,000 in medical expenses but not more for other claims totaling six figures. Still, she said she hoped the judgment will help others.
"For me and other passengers, we've been through the mill and back. It's been a long journey," Karpik said after the decision. "I do hope [the company] will take the time to read the information we've given them about our experiences and take better care of their customers."