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UK court rules cruise operator not liable in norovirus outbreak

UK court rules cruise operator not liable in norovirus outbreak
London’s Central County Court has ruled against a group of 43 Thomson Spirit passengers after a trial over gastrointestinal illness on the ship in 2009.

Test results from the TUI Group's side identified the illness as norovirus, commonly spread by people and not a bacterial infection caused by food, as claimed by the passengers. Judge David Mitchell determined the Thomson Spirit crew, all employees of Celestyal Cruises, took early action and implemented the procedures correctly in response to the norovirus outbreak.

The 1,250-berth Thomson Spirit, time chartered by TUI’s UK arm, is managed by Louis Group’s Celestyal Cruises, which is entirely responsible for the vessel's operation including public health on board.

The ruling recognises cruise lines are not liable for norovirus outbreaks caused by passengers who embark with the illness or are incubating the illness if there is a good outbreak plan and the cruise line correctly implements its procedures.

The ruling could set a precedent for cruise operators threatened by litigation following norovirus outbreaks, even when they take the proper steps to contain the illness.

'It is the first time a judge has accepted that norovirus is something which is not caused by the ship or spread by the ship ... and if the implementation of the plan takes place correctly, the ship owner is not liable,' said lawyer Maria Pittordis of Hill Dickinson who handled the case on behalf of Thomson Spirit.