Royal Caribbean is pursuing legal action against some victims of the Whakaari/White Island tragedy in a bid to stop them from suing the company.
The cruise giant has applied to the Australian Federal Court in an attempt to prohibit two families affected by the disaster from pursuing legal proceedings in the US, according to ABC News.
Marie and Stephanie Browitt, two Australians who lost family members to the tragedy and an American couple named Paul and Ivy Reed, who suffered severe injuries, have launched separate legal proceedings in Florida, where the company is based.
Marie Browitt’s two daughters and husband were among the 47 people on White Island when its volcano erupted in December 2019, most of whom were on a day trip from Royal Caribbean’s ship Ovation of the Seas.
The disaster killed 22 people and left the survivors with serious injuries.
Browitt lost her 21-year-old daughter, Eve, and her husband, Paul, while her other daughter Stephanie was seriously injured.
The family’s lawyer told ABC News that a number of geological and scientific organisations were ringing alarm bells in the lead up to the eruption.
“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.
“If they knew there was an Ebola outbreak going on in a particular place, they would cancel the shore excursion, because that’s what reasonable care demands of a company.”
Gordon said the company has not responded to either of the families cases, as it claims there was a clause in their cruise ticket contract that meant the proceedings could only be heard in NSW courts.
“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,” he told ABC News.
“They never received such a contract.”
Royal Caribbean declined Travel Weekly’s request for a response and said that although its “thoughts are with all those affected by this tragedy”, it does not comment on pending litigation.
In April last year, it was revealed that families of those affected had launched a lawsuit against the cruise company, using law firm Stacks Gouldkamp in Australia for alleged negligence, breach of contract, and breach of Australian consumer law.
“It was completely preventable. It shouldn’t have happened,” lawyer Rita Yousef told ABC News at the time.
The tourists had booked and paid for their trip to White Island through Royal Caribbean.
“They were told in the brochure that all they needed to do if they were attending this tour was to wear enclosed shoes,” Yousef said.
Additionally, the brochure promised visitors would, “Get close to the drama”.
Meanwhile, New Zealand’s work and safety watchdog has charged 13 parties over the tragedy, including a Rotorua-based helicopter company.
Government bodies GNS Science and the National Emergency Management Agency were also among those charged, according to Perth Now, along with White Island Tours, which lost two tour guides in the tragedy.