Carnival Cruises Corporation has been ordered to hand over millions of documents for a cruise class action lawsuit which alleges it failed to implement procedures to stop the spread of norovirus.
Julie McLean-Phillips is representing passengers who travelled on the Sun Princess ship for any of its eight successive cruises between December 2016 and February 2017.
Ms Phillips claims that Carnival is liable after it allegedly failed to tell passengers about the risk of norovirus and the potential for an outbreak on the cruise.
She also said passengers should have been informed after three people fell ill on day one of the 13-night cruise. She also said passengers should have been allowed to disembark.
The case appeared in Federal Court last Friday where Carnival Corporation was ordered to hand over documents relating to its ships, manifests and crew procedures.
Carnival’s solicitor David McLure SC said the documents would take until December 2024 to unearth.
“I realise that’s a very long period of time, but being realistic about things … In the case of the Ruby Princess, which involved one ship, three million documents were discovered,” he said.
“The categories (of documents) being sought here are much more broad and over a longer period of time, and over eight cruises. At least 4.1 million documents have already been uploaded.”
McLure said the applicant Shine Lawyer would “have to live with” the delay.
Documents being sought include passenger complaints related to norovirus and its symptoms on the affected cruises, any closure of facilities, passenger lists and training records.
The group have also been asked to hand over discussions between key personnel – ship captains, directors and senior managers – about any potential cancellation of the voyage or changing to another ship will also be included.
Carnival was not ordered to provide many of the documents being sought including 17,000 customer contracts.
Lawyer Rachel Francois had sought documentation from Carnival relating norovirus procedures dating to 2001 but had the application struct down by Justice Ian Jackman.
Justice Jackson, brother of actor Hugh Jackman told the court Francois’ case would include allegation procedures were not competently implemented due at least in part to training.
After hours of debating, Justice Jackson said it was likely the initial trial would be on just Phillips’ cruise.
The decision on how to run the trial will not be made until next year and Justice Jackson rejected an application by Carnival to limit discovery to just Ms Phillips’ cruise.
“My inclination is that for the purpose of discovery it ought to be given to all relevant cruises, even if as it turns out there will be an initial trial on just one cruises,” Justice Jackson said.
“I imagine there will be overlapping factual mattes which go beyond Ms Phillips’ cruises, and at some point you’ll have to give discovery documents on the relevant cruises.”
Ms Phillips said she and her family became sick after embarking on the cruise, which departed from Fremantle in Western Australia.
Confined to her cabin with her ill sister, Phillips reported experiencing “uncontrollable vomiting”, “explosive diarrhoea” and difficulty walking alone.
Phillips claimed that after her sister became ill she was not offered alternative accommodation and was forced to remain in an unhygienic room soiled by vomit and faeces.
By the end of the cruise, Phillips claimed that 339 passengers and 13 crew had contracted norovirus.
The other affected trips included visits to domestic and international destinations including Margaret River, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and islands in the South Pacific.
The trips occurred back-to-back from December 5, 2016 with the last voyage concluded February 24, 2017.
The court was previously told hundreds of passengers could join the suit.
Carnival Corporation declined to comment.