Blow for cruise line after White Island volcano disaster

A cruise company’s attempt to stop court action by a student horrifically injured in the White Island volcano eruption and her mother has failed.

The Federal Court of Australia ruled on Friday that Stephanie and Marie Browitt can sue Royal Caribbean Cruises despite the company being based in the US.

Stephanie Browitt is suing for damages after she lost her sister and father and suffered burns to 70 per cent of her body in the shocking volcanic eruption.

Ms Browitt was one of dozens horrifically injured when the White Island volcano erupted on December 9, 2019, while on a cruise to the island, also known as Whakaari, 48 kilometres from the NZ coast.

Her sister, Krystal Browitt, and father, Paul Browitt, were among 22 people who died after molten ash and rock exploded from the earth.

Stephanie Browitt was in a coma for two weeks and has had more than 20 surgeries, spending more than six months in hospital while grieving her 21-year-old younger sister and father.

The family had taken the Ovation of the Seas cruise looping from Sydney via New Zealand and were on a day trip to White Island when the volcano erupted.

Mother Marie Browitt remained on the cruise liner for the day, and is also named on the suit suing the company after her family was shattered by the devastating day trip to the volcano.

“She has suffered unspeakable loss and consequent trauma,” judge Angus Stewart said.

Mother and daughter sued Royal Caribbean Cruises, which is incorporated in the West African country of Liberia but is managed out of Miami, in a US Circuit Court in December last year.

The company tried to stop them by claiming it was a term of the contract that any disputes between the parties would be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of New South Wales.

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But the Australian Federal Court on Friday dismissed that claim.

Royal Caribbean Cruises also must pay the Browitts’ costs, the court ruled.

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