Australia’s Federal Court ruled Carnival Corp’s (CCL.N) Australian unit must pay the medical expenses of a woman who contracted COVID-19 in a landmark class action ruling. The country’s highest court decision is the first class action win against a cruise ship operator in the world, according to Shine Lawyers, who represent about 1,000 Australian plaintiffs in the suit.
Justice Angus Stewart said in his ruling that Carnival was negligent and made misleading representations about the company’s safety protocols for passengers on the Ruby Princess voyage, which left Sydney in March 2020 and had to turn back to port in the face of an outbreak of the virus. He said the company should have canceled the return voyage and warned that its “failure to implement adequate precautionary measures caused significant illness amongst its passengers.”
As the global cruise industry slowly resumes operations, this case serves as a reminder that passenger safety is the priority for cruise companies. It also highlights the importance of transparency and honesty in communication between cruise companies and their customers, especially during public health crises. By prioritizing safety, implementing robust health protocols, and being honest in communication with passengers, cruise lines can rebuild trust and ensure a safer cruising experience for everyone.
Flor Gale, who was on a seven-day sailing when she contracted the coronavirus, says she had to be hospitalized three times after her cruise and had to cancel several work commitments to recover from the virus. She told THV11 that the eye-watering medical bills have already forced her to sell her house, and she is in danger of losing custody of her children. Fortunately, Medicare is picking up the tab for her treatment, but she knows others are not so lucky.
There have been numerous stories about Americans who were infected with the coronavirus and have been saddled with medical debt they cannot afford. In New York City alone, hospitals have received over $3bn from an early round of federal funding to help cover the cost of treating coronavirus patients. But this money is not enough to cover the costs of treating those who have been sickened and ruined by the deadly virus. In a nation that values predatory capitalism, private, for-profit healthcare amounts to an American religion.
The alleged damages to Ms Gale and other plaintiffs in the class action could be much higher, depending on whether Australia’s High Court rules that some 700 U.S. passengers can be included in the lawsuit. If this occurs, Shine Lawyers say the firm expects to file an amended class action claim for additional compensation later this year or early in 2024. (Reuters reported earlier this month that shares in Shine, which specializes in class actions, plunged by about 73 percent after the law firm admitted over-egging recoverable “work in progress” amounts to investors.) The company’s stock has since recovered. Reuters’s Chris Morris contributed to this article.