The lead plaintiff of a class action over the Ruby Princess COVID-19 outbreak has told a Sydney court she thought the cruise company would have implemented infection-control measures after deaths from the virus on the company’s sister ship, the Diamond Princess.
- More than 660 people tested positive for COVID-19 after the Ruby Princess cruise and 28 people died
- The class action alleges that Carnival Cruise Line and Princess Cruises breached their duties of care
- Carnival claims passengers knew, or were presumed to have known, their risk when boarding the cruise
Susan Karpik and her husband Henry were among more than 660 people who tested positive for COVID-19 in the weeks after the ship’s return to Sydney from its March 2020 voyage, amid signs of illness on board.
In representative proceedings in the Federal Court, Carnival Cruise Line — the charterer of the vessel — and Princess Cruises, its owner and operator, are accused of breaching their duties of care and Australian Consumer Law.
Ms Karpik, a former nurse, was today cross-examined about her awareness of the COVID-19 risk prior to boarding the Ruby Princess on March 8, 2020.
She agreed that, by that time, she was aware several passengers had died during an outbreak on the Ruby Princess’s sister ship, the Diamond Princess, which had “a lot” of cases on board.
However, she insisted, she was expecting to have been informed if there was any risk of COVID-19 being present on the Ruby Princess.
“Was it your belief, as at 8th March 2020, that Princess Cruise Lines had some system that would enable it to eliminate the risk of COVID being introduced onto the ship?” the company’s barrister, David McLure SC, asked.
“That was my belief,” Ms Karpik replied.
“I don’t know what they would have been, I just believed that they would have done what they needed to do to protect their customers.”
Ms Karpik told the court she had reviewed documents outlining the accreditation process and how ships managed safety on board.
“It might have been an absolutely stupid belief of mine, but I think I did have that belief at that time.”
Ms Karpik was asked whether she and her husband decided to go on the cruise, accepting that there was a risk either or both of them would be infected with COVID-19.
“Yes, probably much the same as if we were shopping in a busy shopping centre, or whatever. The risk is always there,” she replied.
However, she later recanted that evidence, saying she thought the question was referring to conditions such as influenza.
Ms Karpik said COVID-19 was an “unknown” at the time and, given what happened on the Diamond Princess, she assumed there would be “some form of vigorous screening”.
The court was told that, days before leaving, her son-in-law told her he believed cruise ships were “Petri dishes” and the risk of infection was high for any illness.
“We were absolutely confident that the incident that happened on the Diamond Princess, that the cruise line would not allow that to happen again,” she said, “that they would take due action or cancel the cruise if there was any form of risk, that was our belief at the time.”
The trial, before Justice Angus Stewart, continues.