Carnival found negligent in case stemming from cruise that led to early COVID outbreak

The Australian cruise in question on the Ruby Princess ship took place in early March 2020

The federal court in Australia overseeing a class action case about a cruise by Carnival subsidiary Princess Cruises that experienced a COVID-19 outbreak has found Carnival "negligent."

The judgment in the case Karpik v. Carnival plc, brought by lead plaintiff and cruise passenger Susan Karpik, came down Wednesday, with Justice Angus Stewart of the Federal Court of Australia summarizing it as well, roughly 10 months after the wrap-up of the initial trial. 

In the lawsuit’s focus was a March 2020 cruise on the Ruby Princess ship that experienced a COVID-19 outbreak, which ended up affecting hundreds of people. The ship had a planned journey starting and ending in Sydney with stops in New Zealand for over 2,600 guests.

Ruby Princess cruise ship

The Ruby Princess cruise ship as she begins her departure from Port Kembla on April 23, 2020, in Wollongong, Australia.  ( James D. Morgan/Getty Images / Getty Images)

"Given the heightened risk of catching COVID-19 on a cruise ship compared to in the community generally, and the particularly heightened risk on the Ruby Princess because of the outbreak of respiratory illness on the previous voyage, it is doubtful that it was possible at that time to provide cruising services that were reasonably fit for the purpose of providing a safe cruise that was also relaxing and pleasurable," the justice wrote

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Pointing to two other ships in the fleet that had prior outbreaks, he said that Carnival and Princess "knew or ought to have known about the heightened risk of coronavirus infection on the vessel, and its potentially lethal consequences, and that their procedures for screening passengers and crew members for the virus were unlikely to screen-out all infectious individuals."

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Calling off the cruise also would likely not have been "unduly burdensome," something the justice said made the company "negligent and in breach of their duty of care." He weighed in on other claims from the plaintiff in the summary. 

"We have seen the judgment and are considering it in detail," a Carnival Australia spokesperson told FOX Business. "The pandemic was a difficult time in Australia’s history, and we understand how heartbreaking it was for those affected."

Karpik, whose husband accompanied her on the cruise, will receive over Australian $4,400 and interest for the out-of-pocket medical expenses she incurred, on top of the refund from the cruise line that she and others have already received, according to the justice’s summary. The amount she asked for in damages had totalled Australian $360,000.

Carnival Corp

Her husband "spent nearly two months in hospital" due to extremely severe COVID post-cruise, the justice said in his summary.

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Shine Lawyers, the firm for lawsuit’s plaintiffs, said in a press release that the Federal Court of Australia still needed to rule on whether nearly 700 Americans could be included in the class action. 

Ruby Princess cruise ship

The Ruby Princess cruise ship as she begins her departure from Port Kembla on April 23, 2020, in Wollongong, Australia. (James D. Morgan/Getty Images / Getty Images)

"While the judgment is a victory for Mrs. Karpik and other passengers, nothing will compensate or bring back the 28 people who contracted COVID on the cruise ship and passed away as a result," said Vicky Antzoulatos of Shine Lawyers. "Carnival should now do the right thing and compensate all the passengers rather than prolong the matter through further litigation."

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The Ruby Princess, the cruise liner involved in the case, features 19 decks and 1,542 staterooms, according to the Princess Cruises website. It first started sailing fifteen years ago. 

Princess Cruises has fallen under Carnival’s umbrella since 2003. The latter’s fleet consists of 15 ships.