Royal Caribbean, the world’s second largest cruise-line, has applied to the Federal Court of Australia to halt US lawsuits filed by families affected by the White Island volcano eruption.
The families have accused the line of failing in its duty of care by facilitating the shore excursion from Ovation of the Seas, despite alleged warnings that activity suggested the volcano might rupture.
White Island, an uninhabited volcanic island off New Zealand regularly visited by tourists prior to the incident, erupted on December 9 2019, leaving 22 dead and 25 severely injured.
Lawsuits have been filed in the US by the Reed and Browitt families seeking damages.
Royal Caribbean is attempting to block being sued in Miami, relying on an alleged clause in the ticket contract addressing the fateful cruise saying that courts in New South Wales are the only legal forum where disputes over the incident can be heard.
It is understood the line wants to prevent an American case, not increase the suffering of the survivors.
Peter Gordon of Gordon Lawyers and Robodebt Class Action fame, the Australian lawyer representing the Browitts, told ABC News: “The allegation that Royal Caribbean provided the Browitts with a contract that said all pursuits have to be litigated in New South Wales is simply not true”.
“The wrongdoing is that Royal Caribbean had an insight into the warnings and an obligation to keep its passengers out of harm’s way,” Peter Gordon said. “Royal Caribbean have a duty of care to make sure they’re not sending their passengers into places where there is an unreasonable risk of serious injury.”
Melburnians Marie and Stephanie Browitt lost of their husband and father Paul, and daughter and sister Krystal who was celebrating her 21st birthday.
Wrongful death claims have been filed on behalf of Paul and Krystal Browitt. Marie and Stephanie survived the incident, although Stephanie was left with third degree burns to 70% of her body and is still receiving treatment in relation to the incident.
See Stephanie’s progress on her Instagram account – and a warning: brave Stephanie’s plight is quite confronting.
In addition to the physical impact the incident has had on Stephanie, she explained to 60 Minutes how she has also been left mentally and emotionally scarred, “I found out that my sister had passed away after I’d awoken from my coma. It haunts me “. Watch the full interview here.
Royal Caribbean commented: “Our thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy, however we do not comment on pending litigation”
The matter is yet to be listed for hearing in Australia.