Just over a year since the Ruby Princess was embroiled in the start of the COVID lockdown in Australia,  a date has been set for mediation over compensation claims from Australian passengers.

Carnival Australia is also taking to the courts this month in a bid to block overseas passengers from joining a class action in a legal move will have widespread consequences for global travellers.

The line claims overseas passengers – many were from the US – signed up to a different set of terms and conditions to those in Australia. If the line wins the case, it will make it difficult for passengers overseas to take action here.

Over 1,000 passengers are taking part in the action over the incident, which came at the start of the pandemic. Most are believed to be Australians.

Passengers were quickly disembarked from the Ruby Princess in March, 2020. An inquiry blamed NSW health for sparking one of the most widespread outbreaks of COVID-19 in Australia.

Shine Lawyers’ Class Actions Practice Leader, Vicky Antzoulatos said: “Shine Lawyers’ class action against Carnival and Princess Cruises has over 1,000 registrants. Carnival has filed an application to be heard on 20 and 21 May in the Federal Court of Australia to exclude all overseas group members from the class action on the basis that they signed up to different contract terms to Australian and New Zealand passengers when they bought their tickets.

“The judgment is expected to be an important one in so far as the international carriage of passengers by sea go.”

Shine will take part in mediation on behalf of passengers claiming compensation in August.  If the talks fail, the case will go to trial in the Federal Court on March 1, 2022.

The firm seeks compensation on behalf of passengers or their families and the estates of those who died.

NSW Police at Port Kembla
NSW Police at Port Kembla

According to Shine, they allege that Carnival Corp and Princess Cruises breached their consumer guarantees under consumer law, acted negligently and breached their duty of care.

“We say the owner and operator knew of the risks that passengers may contract coronavirus before the ship left and they failed to take steps to ensure their passengers were safe and protected,” Ms Antzoulatos told Sea Trade.

“More than 20 people have died, many remain gravely ill and others struggle with the grief of having lost a loved one.”

Ms Antzoulatos said all 2,700 passengers who travelled on the ship departing Sydney on March 8 and disembarking March 19 could join the class action.

Carnival told Cruise Passenger: “We do not wish to comment on active litigation that is currently before the court.”