Eight hundred people have joined a class action against the operators of the Ruby Princess over its “misleading and deceptive” conduct surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak in March.
The ship, which docked in Sydney on March 19, became one of Australia’s biggest sources of coronavirus infections after 2,647 passengers were allowed to disembark, despite some passengers on board having symptoms of “influenza-like illness”.
Hundreds of people have since been diagnosed as confirmed COVID-19 cases, with more than 20 deaths.
Shine Lawyers has now launched a claim against operators Carnival Plc and Princess Cruise Lines Ltd and is seeking damages through the Federal Court of Australia.
Lawyers claim that the company breached consumer guarantees and were negligent and failed in their duty of care.
Shine Lawyers said the behaviour of the operators had been “misleading and deceptive”.
Class actions practice lawyer Vicky Antzoulatos said 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.”
The ship left Sydney on March 8 despite several passengers on a previous cruise reporting illness including high temperatures.
All passengers who travelled on the March 8 cruise, as well as relatives who suffered “psychiatric injury” as a result of the outcome, are eligible to join the class action.
One passenger who has joined the case is Graeme Lake, who wife, Karla, died from COVID-19 10 days after returning home from the cruise.
“It broke me, it broke the kids, and she didn’t deserve it,” Mr Lake said.
“Karla went on that cruise to celebrate her 75th birthday and what happened to her has destroyed us.
“I am doing everything I can to get justice.”
A spokesman for Princess Cruises said: “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.”
The special commission was established in April and is expected to deliver its findings next month.