Updated Oct 24, 2023 - World

Cruise ship passengers win COVID outbreak lawsuit

The Ruby Princess cruise ship departs the Overseas Passenger terminal in Circular Quay on March 19, 2020 in Sydney, Australia.

The Ruby Princess cruise ship near the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, Australia, in March 2020. Photo: Via Getty Images

Carnival Cruise Line was deemed "negligent" over a 2020 COVID outbreak aboard the Ruby Princess that resulted in 28 deaths, Australia's Federal Court ruled in a class action lawsuit on Wednesday.

Details: Justice Angus Stewart said in a summary that the cruise company "knew or ought to have known about the heightened risk of coronavirus infection on the vessel, and its potentially lethal consequences" before it left Sydney for New Zealand in March 2020, "yet they proceeded regardless."

  • Stewart said he had concluded that "cancelation of the cruise would not have been so burdensome that a reasonable person in the respondents' position would not have cancelled" it.
  • "I have found that the respondents by their conduct made misleading representations that it was reasonably safe for passengers to embark on the cruise," he added.

The big picture: Some 700 people contracted COVID-19 on the Ruby Princess, which is operated by the Carnival-owned Princess Cruises.

  • The class action lawsuit accused Carnival and Princess Cruises of breaching Australian consumer law and "duties of care to passengers."
  • Carnival said in a statement to media that it had seen the judgment and was considering it in detail. "The pandemic was a difficult time in Australia's history, and we understand how heartbreaking it was for those affected," it added.

Zoom out: Cruise ships were an epicenter for COVID outbreaks at the start of pandemic, resulting in the U.S. and other governments issuing no-sail orders before the industry staged a comeback following vaccine rollouts, and it's now in high demand.

Flashback: Carnival CEO defends coronavirus response

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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