The Federal Court trial for the Ruby Princess Class Action suit has begun, with the court set to determine whether Princess and Carnival Cruises could have known they were putting passengers at risk when they allowed the Ruby Princess to sail at the start of the pandemic, and whether or not they owed the passengers a duty of care.

Some 2,600 passengers joined the ship on March 8, 2020, before the vessel returned to Sydney amid an outbreak of illness. Twenty-eight people died and over 660 people tested positive for COVID-19 in subsequent weeks, according to a previous inquiry into the matter.

The Ruby Princess Class Action is being litigated by Shine Lawyers, whose Class Actions Practice Leader Vicky Antzoulatos today made a statement outside the Federal Court.

The Ruby Princess sailed two and a half years ago on its fateful journey in the early days of the pandemic. We’re here today to seek justice for the thousands of passengers who were on board the ship.

“To seek justice for the people who lost their lives to the outbreak. And the families whose lives were torn apart as a result.”

Ms Antzoulatos also explained the core issues being ruled on in the case. “The claim involves whether Princess and Carnival breached the Australia consumer law and breached its duty of care to the passengers.”

According to ABC reports of the case, the lawyer representing Carnival and Princess David McLure SC maintained that when a person decides to go on a cruise ship, they make a choice to have some close encounter with other people.

He was reported as saying: “It’s not correct to say that when a person is on a cruise ship, they are then removed from the ability to take themselves out of any particular setting where they feel uncomfortable because, for example, there are too many people there or people who they think are ill.”

He maintained they could “isolate themselves in their stateroom with their open-air balcony”.

In court documents, Carnival argues several defences, including that the risk of a passenger contracting a contagious disease was “an obvious risk” to a reasonable person in the circumstances.

It claims the passengers knew or were presumed to have known that risk and, by going on the voyage, they “voluntarily accepted” that risk.

The trial will run for some four weeks. An attempt at meditation between Carnival Corporation and Shine Lawyers last December.

Both Carnival and Princess have both since resumed sailing in Australian waters. 

According to Shine Lawyers’ website, the case boils down to whether Carnival and Princess breached their duty of care by allowing passengers to sail knowing there was a heightened risk of catching the virus while aboard, as well as failed to properly protect them during the sailing, and whether Australian consumer law was breached by Princess promising customers a “safe, relaxing and pleasurable” holiday experience.

princess cruises ruby
As the Ruby Princess Class Action commences, Princess continues to sail in Australia.