How shipowners could face liabilities in the event of Norovirus

Allegations of illnesses caused by being onboard ship are often the cause of significant costs for ship owners. Victoria Brown, UK P&I Club Senior Claims Executive, has reviewed ship owners liabilities and the implications of a recent court case on future claims.

Claims from passengers alleging that they have contracted gastric illness whilst on Members ships are common, and defending them requires significant amounts of documentation to establish that proper procedures were followed to prevent the occurrence and spread of infection, along with evidence that the illness was not caused by any fault on the part of the ship or its crew. Consequently, Members have often ended up settling these types of claims, she said.

One method that has been used to defend such claims, or as a bargaining tool in settlement negotiations, is to argue that the illnesses were not bacterial but viral, and therefore unrelated to a lack of hygiene or food safety. Norovirus is a highly contagious viral infection that can flourish in the closed environment of a passenger ship. Evidence that a gastric illness is norovirus, rather than a food-borne bacterial infection, puts a ship owner on far stronger ground to argue that the illness was not due to any failing on its part.

A recent case Nolan v TUI UK Ltd has demonstrated recognition by the courts that the owners and operators of passenger ships are not liable for norovirus outbreaks, provided the industry standard procedures to prevent illness outbreaks have been followed, and the necessary measures are taken to manage and contain illness.

Hill Dickinson Solicitors acted for the Defendants throughout. Maria Pittordis, partner and business group leader of the Marine, Trade and Energy Department, commented that the claim is the first of its type to be successfully defended at trial in the UK, and is of great importance to the cruise industry in recognising that norovirus is not caused by the ship, and that even with high levels of implementation of industry procedures, outbreaks do occur.

Find further details at UK P&I Club's related article - Norovirus on board

Learn more information about Norovirus at CDC website

Source: The UK P&I Club