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Injury on a Cruise Ship; Plaintiff wins $445,000 in Compensation. An Overview of Smith v Carnival PLC trading as P&O Cruises Australia [2018] NSWSC 782

On 31 May 2018 Judge Campbell of the Supreme Court of NSW handed down a judgment for a Plaintiff who suffered injury while on holiday on a P & O cruise in December 2011. The judge awarded the Plaintiff $445,000 in compensation plus legal costs.

Below we provide you with an overview of this case and information on what to do if you or someone you know should ever become injured on a cruise ship.


On 27 December 2011 the Plaintiff was on holiday with her family on a cruise ship called the Pacific Jewel. She was 14 years of age at the time. The Plaintiff was standing in a walkway when all of a sudden three ceiling panels fell down, hitting her on the head and left shoulder. 

The Plaintiff attended the cruise ship medical centre, where a doctor recorded that she had a contusion on her scalp and she was prescribed with panadol. The next day when the cruise ended the Plaintiff consulted her regular doctor about her injuries.

The Plaintiff underwent physiotherapy for approximately 3 months before she was referred for a CT of her neck. Although the Plaintiff continued to suffer from pain and discomfort, the CT reported that there was "no significant abnormality". A small disc bulge was thought to be the source of her discomfort, which was found on an MRI scan.

The Plaintiff continued to undergo treatment (including cortisone injections into the neck) without complete recovery. As a consequence she developed a psychological injury and underwent psychological treatment. The Plaintiff needed to take strong pain medication on a regular basis As a consequence of the injury she had to give up her previously enjoyed hobby of dancing. At the time of the hearing of the case the Plaintiff had not undergone surgery to her neck, but it was expected to take place in the future.


Liability for the accident had been admitted by the Defendant, Carnival PLC. This meant that the Judge was only required to determine the amount of compensation payable to the Plaintiff as the Defendant and the Plaintiff had been unable to agree to a figure.

The Judge awarded compensation to the Plaintiff for her pain and suffering, past and future medical expenses, past and future domestic care and future economic loss. She was not awarded compensation for any past economic loss because for the most part she had been a student prior to the judgment and had not yet lost any income as a consequence of her injury.


Have you or someone you know been injured on a cruise ship?

The Plaintiff in the above case had been fortunate in that the Defendant admitted liability for the injuries she had sustained on the cruise ship. This is not common.

Before compensation can be won by a Plaintiff, the Plaintiff must be able to prove that the Defendant had breached its duty of care, and that breach had caused the Plaintiff's injuries. Depending on the cause of the injury, this argument can be complex and result in the need for expert evidence in order to prove that the Defendant has in fact been negligent.

If you or someone you know have been injured on a cruise ship, you may be eligible for compensation for your injury. Even if your injury occurs while the cruise ship is not in Australian waters, your claim may be made in Australia.

Keep in mind, there are strict time limits that apply when making a claim for compensation. Claims made under the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW) (which include cruise ship claims which involve the state of New South Wales) must be made within 3 years of the date of accident.

Some important things you should do if you are injured on a cruise ship:

  • Take photos of the incident site.
  • Ensure any CCTV footage of the incident (preferably 1 hour before until 1 hour after) is stored and kept.
  • Record the names and contact details of any witnesses to the incident.
  • Attend the cruise ship medical centre to record your injuries and undertake any recommended treatment.
  • Record your incident on an incident report form.
  • Attend your regular doctor when the cruise ship arrives home. Undertake MRI scans of any injured body parts.

If you or someone you know have been injured whilst on holiday on a cruise ship, contact our law firm on (02) 4444 6808 or to find out whether you may be eligible to make a compensation claim for your injuries. Ardent Lawyers has experience in cruise ship and other holiday compensation claims and may be able to act for you on a no win no fee basis (conditions apply).