Assault on cruise ship not owner’s fault

Mr Packer, a 35 year old waterproof applicator, attended a work Christmas function in December 2006.  The function involved going on a cruise to South Stradbroke Island for a day trip.   He attended with his girlfriend and two children.   The cruise and function facilities on the island were operated by the Respondent, Tall Ship Sailing Cruises.

There were effectively two different groups on the cruise that day:  one with about 20 adults (from Malouf Marine) and the other group, that Mr Packer was a part of, consisting of  48 adults and 43 children.

Once on the island there were water sports activities (which many of Mr Packer’s work group participated in) before lunch.   The Malouf group instead remained on the island.  Some of them, it was said, stayed at the bar the whole time drinking cocktails, shots and spirits.  They were described as loud and boisterous.

When it was time to depart the island and while waiting to board the ship Mr Packer noticed a group of 4 or 5 men who were drunk, very loud and swearing.  Mr Packer noted there it was a family day and asked the men to be mindful of their language.

That comment was not met with a favourable response.  A similar situation arose on the boat but on that occasion as he was talking to the group Mr Packer was king-hit to the side of the head from behind by an unknown assailant.  He suffered facial injuries and long term neurological problems.

Mr Packer brought a personal injury claim against both his employer and the operators of the ship.  He argued they both should have acted to protect him against a risk of assault by excluding the group from the ship, having better crowd control or having other crew available.

Mr Packer lost his case against both parties at trial.  He appealed only in relation to the claim against the ship operators.  He lost his appeal too:  the court found that the sudden and violent behaviour of the unknown assailant was not something the ship operators could have foreseen.  So there was no obligation to take any steps.

If this article could be relevant to your situation please contact us.  We’d be more than happy to help guide you through your possible options.

For more details read the full version of the court judgment:

Packer v Tall Ship Sailing Cruises Australia PtyLtd [2015] QCA 108

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