Legal action planned in case of White Island volcano eruption

Survivors of the volcanic eruption on White Island, New Zealand, on December 9th 2019, are preparing legal action against cruise ship company Royal Caribbean for failing to warn passengers on cruise ship Ovation Of The Seas (IMO 9697753) of the risks involved in touring the area, lawyers said on April 27th.

A total of 47 people, most of them Australian tourists, were on White Island when the volcano erupted, resulting in 21 fatalities. Nineteen of those who died were passengers on board the Ovation of the Seas.

Lawyer Rita Yousef, from Sydney-based legal firm Stacks Goudkamp, said the firm was preparing a legal action against Royal Caribbean on behalf of survivors and families of the victims, many of whom were passengers on the cruise liner.

At least one Australian family and an unconfirmed number of others will sue for alleged negligence, breach of contract and violations of Australian consumer law. New Zealand authorities had raised the Volcanic Alert Level for White Island from Level 1 to Level 2 on November 18th.

Ms Yousef said there was no indication at all that Royal Caribbean was paying attention to the increased risk of the volcano erupting before a group of passengers joined a day-tour of the island. “At the very least, they should’ve informed their tour participants of the risk and let them decide if they wanted to take the risk,” Ms Yousef said.

New Zealand has a “no-fault” public indemnity scheme, preventing legal action being pursued in New Zealand, but Ms Yousef said that Australians caught up in the disaster had ongoing costs and losses that would likely far exceed the payments provided under the capped New Zealand scheme.

New Zealand has launched an investigation into whether anyone was at fault, but this was not expected to conclude before the end of this year.

A spokesperson for Royal Caribbean said since the eruption the company had “focused on providing care and support to passengers, their families and crew that were impacted by this event,” adding that “the details of the tour are the subject of two separate investigations in New Zealand which we will be fully co-operating with and we are unable to provide further details at this time.”

2016-built, Bahamas-flagged, 168,666 gt Ovation Of the Seas is owned by Ovation of the Seas Inc care of manager Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd of Miami, Florida. ISA manager is RCL Cruises Ltd of Weybridge, UK. It is entered with UK P&I Club