Australian Courts Limit COVID-19 Lawsuits To Australian Citizens
The Australian Courts recently issued a ruling that prohibited American passengers from filing lawsuits in Australian courts. The decision was seen as a blow to the handful of Americans aboard the Ruby Princess when an outbreak of COVID-19 began infecting passengers.
Essentially, Australian passengers have filed a class-action against Carnival and Princess Cruise lines alleging negligence led to the spread of the COVID-19 virus. 28 passengers lost their lives aboard the vessel and many others were infected, some sustaining permanent injury. Those passengers have since formed a class to sue the cruise line on the grounds that they lied to passengers about the outbreak of COVID-19 aboard the vessel.
The decision only affects a subgroup of the class composed of foreign nationals. Australians will be allowed to move forward with their claims in the Australian court. However, Americans and other foreigners will be required to file their lawsuits in their own countries. For Americans, this could spell the death of their claim against Carnival. Attorneys for plaintiffs in the U.S. have struggled to move claims forward against the cruise lines that exposed their passengers to the COVID-19 virus.
Passengers sign tickets before embarking on cruises and these tickets are like contracts with passengers bound to the terms of those contracts. Each passenger was subject to the terms of their ticket sale which depended on where the ticket was purchased. Those who purchased tickets in the U.S. or elsewhere cannot use the Australian courts to recover damages.
What does this mean?
U.S. passengers who purchased tickets through U.S. brokers will need to file lawsuits in the U.S. to recover damages related to their Australian cruise. It’s a big pain, but the Australians do not want the lawsuits held up by competing claims and jurisdictional issues.
U.S. tickets are binding contracts that are enforceable under U.S. law. Essentially, they force claims into arbitration and prevent class-action lawsuits from moving forward. In Australia, such terms may be illegal or unenforceable under the law. The U.S. often allows companies to control litigation in a way that stacks the deck in their favor. The cruise industry has carved out a place for itself where they can force claims into arbitration and prevent class-action lawsuits from being filed before they occur. They have no such power in Australia.
For Americans, it’s a bit like buyer beware. There are some claims which are easy to file a lawsuit on and other claims that can be quite difficult. When it comes to infectious disease claims against cruise ships, they can be very difficult to win. However, there is still a question as to whether or not cruise ship employees lied to passengers about whether previous passengers had fallen ill with the virus.
Talk to a Miami Cruise Ship Injury Lawyer Today
Miami admiralty & maritime lawyer Michael F. Guilford represents the interests of cruise ship passengers who have been injured during cruises. Call today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about how we can help.