A CLASS action was recently commenced in the Federal Court of Australia on 23 July 2020 against Carnival Plc and Princess Cruise Lines Ltd, arising out of the outbreak of coronavirus on board the Ruby Princess.

The class action invites claimants from amongst passengers who were on board the Ruby Princess for the round- trip voyage to New Zealand and who disembarked in Sydney on 19 March 2020 regardless of whether or not the passenger contracted coronavirus.

The class action is also open to executors of passengers who died from contracting the virus as well as family members or loved ones of passengers who became ill or died as a result of contracting the virus and who have suffered a psychiatric injury as a result.

This means that such persons will need to have suffered a diagnosed clinical psychiatric illness. These categories of claimants lend themselves to framing their claims under the Australian Consumer Law which imposes statutory guarantees on Carnival not to engage in misleading in deceptive conduct.

The passengers and their relatives will also no doubt argue that the approximately 158 cases of coronavirus which had been detected on board the Ruby Princess prior to its arrival in Sydney, meant that Carnival was also negligent and liable under the ACL in not exercising due care and skill in its care for the passengers and also that the cruise operators were in breach of their contractual obligations to provide a safe cruise experience for the passengers.

The class action is likely to raise issues about the effect of the contracts passengers entered into, what access foreign residents have to remedies under the ACL as the passengers on board were not limited to Australian residents and what range of damages will be available not only for personal injury suffered but also consequential loss.

Alexis Cahalan,
Norton White