Royal Caribbean tries to block families suing over fatal tour to island of live volcano
Tourists on a boat look at the eruption of the volcano on White Island, New Zealand. - AP
Royal Caribbean, the world's largest cruise company, is trying to prevent victims of the 2019 New Zealand volcanic eruption from being sued in the United States.
Passengers on the Royal Caribbean ship Ovation of the Seas were on a trip to White Island, a popular tourist attraction, last December when a volcano suddenly erupted, killing 27 visitors and injuring 25 others.
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Maryland, United States' Ivy and Paul Reed, who were burned as a result of the outbreak, and Australians Marie and Stephanie Browitt, who had lost family members in the outbreak, filed separate lawsuits against Royal Caribbean alleging the cruise line did so fail to properly explain the dangers of visiting White Island.
Peter Gordon, an attorney for the Browitt family, told the Australian broadcaster that Royal Caribbean should have known the volcano could erupt before allowing its passengers to visit White Island.
Krystal Browitt, 21, of Melbourne, Australia, was killed in an outbreak. At the time there were 47 people on the privately owned White Island or Whakaari - Universal News And Sport (Europe)
However, Royal Caribbean Cruises this week moved to Australian federal court for a decision to freeze the lawsuits.
"There have been a number of geological and scientific organizations ringing alarm bells about volcanic activity on the island," said Gordon.
He claims Royal Caribbean knew or should have known the volcano was dangerous, but still sold tickets for the day trip to maximize his profits.
"The wrongdoing is that Royal Caribbean saw the warnings and was under an obligation to get its passengers out of the way," he added.
The Florida Browitts' lawsuit alleges that they suffered "severe emotional distress, emotional distress, physical pain, loss of vitality, post-traumatic stress and other mental disorders".
Marie Browitt's daughter, Krystal Eve Browitt (21), was the first victim of the volcanic eruption officially named by the New Zealand police.
She was on the island with her father Paul, who later died of his injuries, and sister Stephanie, who was seriously injured.
The Browitts contend that Royal Caribbean's decision to allow visitors to visit White Island was "indecently careless, beyond the limits of propriety and so ruthless that it should not be tolerated in civilized society".
Royal Caribbean has failed to file a response from the Browitt and Reed families in the US in either case and has argued in their filing in the Australian federal court that a clause in their cruise ticket contract stipulates that the proceedings can only be heard in local courts in New South Wales due to a clause in their cruise ticket agreement.
Royal Caribbean did not answer questions about the lawsuits.
"Our thoughts go out to everyone affected by this tragedy. We do not comment on upcoming investigations," a spokeswoman told ABC.
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