A UK class action case involving a norovirus outbreak onboard a cruise ship has been successfully defended in what is being seen as a landmark decision.

The case involved an outbreak of gastroenteritis on board the Thomson Spirit, chartered from Louis Cruise Lines.

The class action involved 43 passengers, 28 who alleged they suffered from bacterial illness with the balance claiming breach of contract.

Lawyers acting for the claimants had alleged that the outbreak was bacterial, caused by negligence on the part of the cruise line and poor adherence by the crew to the ship’s established outbreak response plan.

Judge David Mitchell, sitting in the Central London County Court, found in favour of the cruise line, saying that it was a very well-controlled outbreak and that the company applied and implemented its systems well and that the cruise line was not negligent.

In coming to his decision, the judge took into account not only the evidence taken from the ship but also evidence from passengers.

This included complaints about not being able to have self-service food, being given paper napkins and being confined to their cabins.

However, the judge found that these complaints were deemed to be evidence of compliance with the ship’s outbreak plan.

He ruled the ship was not contaminated when the claimants commenced their cruise.

Maria Pittordis, head of marine, trade and energy and a partner at law firm Hill Dickinson, said: “The court accepted that the systems onboard had been fully implemented by the officers and the crew to bring the virus under control and was influenced by the documentation produced to support the case, the fact that Louis tested for pathogens and the deployment of systems beyond the levels that were required for the numbers of illness.

“This was a great example of team work between owners, charterers, external health hygiene auditors, the authorities and lawyers.”

She added: “The judgment is the first claim of its type to be successfully defended at trial in the UK.

“It 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 of norovirus do occur.”