Carnival Cruise Lines engaged in misleading representations and were negligent in providing passenger safety on the 2020 Ruby Princess voyage, the Federal Court has found.
The retired nurse and her husband Henry were among more than 660 people who tested positive for COVID-19 in the weeks after the ship was forced to return to Sydney from its March 2020 voyage.
There were 1,679 Australians on board and 28 people died as a result of the outbreak. The ship spent three weeks docked at Port Kembla.
Justice Angus Stewart found on Wednesday that Carnival was negligent in certain respects with regard to the precautions taken for passenger safety.
He also found the company made misleading representations in pre-boarding communications with passengers, including by suggesting it was "reasonably safe" to take the cruise.
Justice Stewart found the cruise company knew or ought to have known about the heightened risk of COVID-19 infection on the vessel.
"To proceed with the cruise carried a significant risk of a coronavirus outbreak, with possible disastrous consequences, yet they proceeded regardless," he said.
The finding represents the first successful cruise ship class action in the world and the company involved is being urged to settle with other passengers rather than proceeding with lengthy litigation.
"I am pleased with this outcome as it brings a degree of comfort for all passengers who were worse off as a result of travelling on the Ruby Princess," Mrs Karpik said after the decision.
"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."
Justice Stewart found Mr Karpik, a retired police officer, most likely contracted COVID-19 on board the vessel due to a "crowded muster" shortly before boarding.
Mr Karpik became seriously ill and at one stage was given two days to live. He spent two months in hospital.
The court heard Mrs Karpik also caught the virus, most likely on the voyage, with minor symptoms.
She sought damages for personal injuries, distress and disappointment to the value of more than $360,000.
Her individual claim revolved around the distress and disappointment caused by the illness of Mr Karpik, who was placed in an induced four-week coma and his ongoing care.
She developed adjustment disorder, anxiety and depression due to being split from him and not knowing whether he was going to die.
Justice Stewart found Mrs Karpik did not suffer from long COVID and as a result did not meet the non-economic loss threshold required to recover personal damages.
She was successful on a claim for out-of-pocket medical expenses totalling $4,423 plus interest.
Justice Stewart found Mrs Karpik was entitled to disappointment damages to compensate for the fact that the cruise was not a "happy and relaxing holiday" as promised.
However, as Carnival refunded all passengers the cost of the cruise, the judge found the company had satisfied that claim.
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