An Australian class action over a deadly coronavirus outbreak on board the Ruby Princess cruise ship can still include passengers from the United States and the United Kingdom, a judge has ruled.
Many passengers contracted the disease and some died, including a 91-year-old man from Port Macquarie, after the outbreak on the ship which left Sydney on March 8 and returned on March 19 2020 after sailing via a number of ports in New Zealand.
The elderly man was admitted to Port Macquarie Base Hospital with COVID-19 where he passed away on April 4, 2020.
Susan Karpik commenced representative proceedings against Carnival plc, the time charterer of the vessel, and Princess Cruise Lines Ltd, the owner and operator of the vessel.
The group is made up of passengers, executors and close family.
In the Federal Court on Friday, Justice Angus Stewart rejected a preliminary application to stop a "sub-group" of overseas passengers from being part of the action.
Of the 2651 paying passengers on board, the respondents allege that 696 contracted their cruise on US terms and conditions and 159 contracted on UK terms and conditions.
The balance are said to have contracted on Australian terms and conditions.
The differing conditions include a class action waiver clause in the US terms.
Ms Karpik alleges the respondents negligently and in breach of their duties of care allowed the voyage to proceed and failed to take adequate measures to protect passengers from the risk of COVID-19.
They also allegedly failed to warn passengers of the risk of contracting the disease.
Further, they allegedly engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct and breached their consumer guarantees under the Australian Consumer Law.
Justice Stewart ruled it wasn't necessary or appropriate at this early stage of the proceedings to determine the law applicable to the US and UK sub groups' negligence claims.
He noted a stay on the US passengers would result in the fracturing of the litigation with essentially identical claims being brought in the Federal Court and any stayed claims being brought in the US.
"Such a result is wasteful of parties' and judicial resources and runs the risk of producing conflicting outcomes in different courts, which would bring the administration of justice into disrepute."
The Federal Court was "not a clearly inappropriate forum" for the determination of the claims of the overseas passengers, the judge said.
Those claims had a substantial connection with NSW as many of the breaches of duty of care that are alleged concern conduct or omissions in Sydney.
The case will return to court on September 17.
Australian Associated Press