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Ruby Princess leaving Port Kembla
Ruby Princess leaving Port Kembla

Ruby Princess passengers given hearing date for claims over ill-fated journey

Passengers and relatives of those who died as a result of the ill-fated journey of the Ruby Princess have received a date for their class action.  The matter will be heard in the Federal Court of Australia on October 10, 2022 and is set to run for approximately four weeks.

Twenty-eight people died as a result of the ship’s COVID-19 outbreak in March, 2020, and more than 700 were infected. It is believed the ship may have been responsible for the spread of the virus to 24 people in New Zealand.

Just a week ago, a New Zealand Customs’ inquiry  found the company and crew had no knowledge that COVID was on board.

A spokesperson for Shine Lawyers, the firm representing the class action, said: “It is alleged that the outbreak of Coronavirus on the Ruby Princess, which docked in Sydney on Thursday 19 March 2020, resulted from a failure to take appropriate measures to ensure that passengers were safe and protected from contracting the virus on the ship.”

“We allege this failure constitutes breaches of the cruise owner and operator’s duty of care to its passengers, and of the consumer guarantees and other provisions of Australian Consumer Law.”

According to the court documents, lawyers for the families will allege Princess  “received an update to the NSW Health ‘Enhanced COVID-19 Procedures for the Cruise Line industry” dated 9 March 2020. 

This update advised that cruise ship staff should ensure that: “They actively identify passengers and crew with acute respiratory illness – including cough, sore throat, fever or difficulty breathing – by making regular announcements throughout the cruise, inviting them to attend the clinic for assessment.”

The court documents maintain that Carnival PLC will claim “the risk that a passenger on the Voyage might contract a contagious disease (such as Coronavirus) from another person was an obvious risk, or an open and obvious risk, to a reasonable person in the circumstances,” and that “the loss and damage claimed by the Applicant” is a result of the aforementioned risks.

A 2020 inquiry into the Ruby Princess incident identified “serious” and “inexcusable” errors by NSW Health, stating that: “NSW Health should also have ensured that cruise ships were aware of the changes to the definition of a ‘suspect case’ for COVID-19 made on 10 March.”

“This would have resulted in the identification of such cases on the Ruby Princess.”

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