The lead plaintiff in a class action lawsuit over the Ruby Princess’s COVID-19 outbreak has told a Sydney court she thought the cruise line had implemented measures to control the infection after a death from the virus on its sister ship Diamond Princess.
- More than 660 people test positive for COVID-19 after Ruby Princess cruise, 28 people die
- The class-action lawsuit alleges that Carnival Cruise Line and Princess Cruises breached their duties of care
- Carnival claims that passengers knew, or were presumed to know, of their risk when they boarded 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 returned to Sydney from a March 2020 flight amid signs of illness on board.
In a representative trial in the Federal Court, Carnival Cruise Line, the ship’s charterer, and Princess Cruises, its owner and operator, are accused of breaching their duty of care and breaching Australian consumer law.
Ms Karpik, a former nurse, was cross-examined today about whether she was aware of the risk of COVID-19 before boarding the Ruby Princess on March 8, 2020.
She agreed that she knew by then that several passengers had died in the outbreak on the Ruby Princess’s sister ship, the Diamond Princess, which had “numerous” cases on board.
However, she insisted she was waiting to be told if there was a risk of COVID-19 on the Ruby Princess.
“On March 8, 2020, did you believe that Princess Cruise Lines had any system in place to eliminate the risk of bringing COVID onto the ship?” asked the company’s lawyer, David McLure SC.
“That was my belief,” Ms Karpik replied.
“I don’t know who they would have been, I just believed they would have done what they had to do to protect their customers.”
Ms Karpik told the court she had reviewed documents describing the accreditation process and how ships ensure safety on board.
“Maybe it was a completely stupid belief of mine, but I think I had that belief at the time.”
Ms. Karpik was asked whether she and her husband decided to go on the cruise after accepting that there was a risk of contracting COVID-19, or both.
“Yeah, probably about the same as if we were shopping in a busy mall or something. There’s always a risk,” she replied.
However, she later recanted this evidence, saying she thought the question referred to illnesses such as the flu.
Ms Karpik said that at the time, COVID-19 was “unknown” and given what had happened on the Diamond Princess, she suggested there would be “some form of intensive screening”.
The court was told that days before departure, her son-in-law told her he believed cruise ships were “Petri dishes” and the risk of infection was high for any disease.
“We were absolutely confident that the incident that happened on the Diamond Princess, that the cruise line would not allow this to happen again,” she said, “that they would take appropriate action or cancel the cruise if there was any form of risk, that was our belief at that time.”
The trial before Judge Angus Stewart continues.