The firm has been taking on a number of matters connected to insurance companies and tour operators, including cases related to the Ruby Princess
Australian Travel & Tourism Lawyers is hearing enquiries on travel-related matters that have arisen due to COVID-19.
With the uproar surrounding the Ruby Princess cruise ship controversy, the firm told Australasian Lawyer that many Australians are considering their options.
“We have received enquiries concerning cruise ships, including in relation to the Ruby Princess. Those matters are very much at an early stage; nonetheless, we have no doubt that, particularly in relation to that ship, litigation will follow,” said paralegal Bronte Sellers.
Australian Travel & Tourism Lawyers has also been working with US lawyer Debi Chalik, who has commenced proceedings against operator Princess Cruises in the District Court of California for the death of American Ruby Princess passenger Chung Chen from the coronavirus following the ship’s March voyage.
“Subject to jurisdictional issues, it is likely that some claims by Australians may be brought in the USA, where, inevitably, awards of damages are higher,” Sellers said.
Insurance claims and refunds are common matters that have been brought before the firm by clients over the past month.
“Many travel operators are refusing to provide full refunds, and travel insurers are also tending to take a hard line. They are both tending to rely upon force majeure clauses in their contracts,” Sellers said.
While some tour operators are offering incentives in lieu of having to provide refunds, a number of travel insurers are ducking liability by denying indemnity under insurance policies on the grounds that the pandemic is considered a force majeure.
“In many cases, there is a highly semantic issue as to whether or not the force majeure provisions actually apply,” said Sellers. “As matters currently stand, we expect a number of claims to be brought involving the proper construction of those clauses.”