Shine Lawyers have filed a Federal Court class action against the owners of the Ruby Princess over the handling of a COVID-19 outbreak onboard the ship.
In documents lodged in court on Thursday, the firm reveals it is seeking compensation on behalf of 800 passengers or their families and estates.
Class actions practice lawyer Vicky Antzoulatos said the legal firm will allege passengers were not told of the risks on board.
“We say both of those companies had responsibilities to the passengers and failed to take the appropriate steps to keep them safe,” she said.
“It’s been a tragedy listening to the stories of these passengers. Many of them were in intensive care for months, on ventilators for months, really on death’s door, some of them.”
One of those passengers is Graeme Lake, who lost his wife Karla just 10 days after they disembarked from the cruise.
The couple, who are Elite members of Princess’ frequent sailings club, had booked a cruise to New Zealand, to celebrate Karla’s 75th birthday. But after returning home to Murrumba Downs in Queensland, both Graeme and Karla were diagnosed with coronavirus.
“Karla only spent one day at home before she was taken to hospital. I laid next to her, also sick with coronavirus, listening to her struggling to breathe,” he said.
“We thought we would book a cruise to New Zealand, as there were no coronavirus cases there. But we were given no warning, no messages when we were onboard, and we weren’t told anything to why we embarked so late. We should have just got back on the plane [to Queensland] when we had to wait till 7pm to board.”
Mr Lake is just one of 800 people who have joined the class action lawsuit.
Hundreds of people from the Ruby Princess have since been diagnosed with COVID-19, and more than 20 passengers have died.
The lawyers claim that Carnival Corporation, owner of the Ruby Princess breached consumer guarantees, were negligent and failed in their duty of care in protecting passengers.
“I’m going to do whatever I can. I owe this to Karla. I’m still struggling so much. This has completely broken the family,” said Mr Lake.
“I come home, and there is no one to cook for, no one to talk to, and no one to make plans with. I am so angry. They [Princess Cruises] should have done more for us.”
The Ruby Princess, which docked in Sydney on March 19, has become one of the biggest sources of the coronavirus infections. Just over 2,600 passengers were allowed to disembark, some presenting with ‘influenza-like’ symptoms.
The State Government earlier this year, launched a special inquiry into the Ruby Princess. Hearings have concluded and it’s expected that a report will be handed to government next month.
A spokesperson from Princess Cruises said in a statement: “We have the utmost respect for our guests and understand the worldwide impact of COVID-19 including on some of our guests, crew members and their families.
“The NSW Special Commission of Inquiry, in which we are participating, is in the process of establishing the facts in relation to Ruby Princess.
“It is not our intention to respond to the assertions of class action lawyers.”