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Court rules Carnival Cruises was negligent during COVID-19 outbreak linked to hundreds of cases

An Australian court has ruled Carnival Cruises was negligent during an outbreak of COVID-19 onboard one of its ships in March 2020. A class-action lawsuit alleged the cruise line failed to take appropriate measures to ensure passengers on its Ruby Princess ship didn’t get sick as the coronavirus was spreading around the world.

More than 2,650 passengers were onboard the ship when it departed Sydney on March 8, 2020, and returned to Sydney on March 19.

Susan Karpik, a former nurse whose husband was hospitalized with COVID-19 after the cruise, was the lead applicant in the class-action suit, according to Shine Law, the firm that represented about 1,000 plaintiffs.

Karpik sued for over 360,000 Australian dollars, claiming she suffered psychological distress due to her husband’s condition, according to the Reuters news agency. He was given only days to live at one point and is also part of the class-action lawsuit.

Karpik was awarded AU$4,423.48 ($2,826) for her medical expenses but did not receive other damages. However, attorney Vicky Antzoulatos said her husband and other passengers involved in the suit are still awaiting the court’s decision on their claims and may be awarded more, according to Reuters.

About 900 COVID-19 cases and 28 deaths were linked to the cruise, Reuters reports.

During the trial, Carnival argued the nearly 700 U.S. passengers onboard signed a class-action waiver as part of the cruise line’s U.S. terms and conditions and they should not be included in the suit, according to Shine Law. The court has yet make a decision on that.

“I am pleased with this outcome as it brings a degree of comfort for all passengers who were worse off as a result of traveling on the Ruby Princess,” Antzoulatos said in a news release. “It’s of course only a partial win as 28 lives were lost on this cruise. There are many individuals and families who will never recover from this loss.”

CBS News has reached out to the law firm for further comment and is awaiting a response.

“We have seen the judgment and are considering it in detail,” a Carnival Australia spokesperson told CBS News via email. “The pandemic was a difficult time in Australia’s history, and we understand how heartbreaking it was for those affected.”

In May 2020, Congress opened an investigation into how Carnival responded to COVID-19. At the time, more than 100 U.S. citizens who worked on cruises were stranded on ships because the CDC wanted cruise lines to make quarantine plans before allowing people to disembark.

Carnival said it was working with the CDC to get the employees home and that it would cooperate with the House investigation.

The CDC has since stopped monitoring cases of COVID-19 on cruise ships but said in 2022 it would “continue to publishguidanceto help cruise ships continue to provide a safer and healthier environment for passengers, crew and communities going forward.”

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