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Florida Cruise Ship Liability for Rape or Sexual Assault of a Passenger

Cruise ship vacations and travel are a top tourist draw in Florida, with ships commonly leaving from ports in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Port Canaveral. While many come home from these excursions with memories they’ll always cherish, others are left with a nightmare they’d forget if they could. cruise ship injury lawyer

Sexual assault on cruise ships is a major problem, as reported last year by NBC News, which noted victims are disproportionately under 18. In one instance reported by the outlet, the 16-year-old girl of a single mother was allegedly sexually assaulted by a trainer in the gym on board the cruise ship. The case was reported, and the ship did collect evidence and contact the FBI. However, no criminal charges were ever filed – something NBC reported was common in these cases. Of the 92 alleged on-board crimes that were reported by cruise lines in 2016, 62 of those were for sexual assaults and rapes – a Congressional report finding one-third of the victims were minors.

As our Fort Lauderdale cruise ship injury attorneys can explain, cruise lines can be held liable for sexual assaults and other criminal attaches that occur on ships and during excursions – particularly if they involve employees of the ship. In the event an employee was involved, cruise lines may be deemed strictly liable, meaning it’s not necessary to prove negligence. However, in cases where other passengers were involved, plaintiffs will need to prove negligence, which is failure to exercise a duty of reasonable care.

Recently in a cruise ship sexual assault claim before the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, L.A. v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, the federal court reversed summary judgment in favor of the cruise line in a case stemming from the sexual assault of a 13-year-old by two other passengers in the library of the cruise ship in 2015.

According to court records, plaintiff was with several other young passengers in the library of the ship around 2 a.m. when two visibly intoxicated adult passengers entered the area and sexually battered him. Plaintiff contended his two male attackers were over-served alcohol, and despite security cameras installed in the library that captured most of the attack, no employees came to his aid, either because the cameras weren’t being monitored or employees were monitoring and did nothing to assist him.

Further, plaintiff alleges intentional infliction of emotional distress when, after the alleged assault, the defendant cruise ship placed him in the same room as his attackers and asked him to speak up about what had occurred. Plaintiff said he was terrified because one of his attackers threatened to cut his head off and throw it overboard if he reported what had happened. Plaintiff alleged the cruise line’s actions in investigating the incident were specifically intended to avoid having to report the incident to authorities, and in so doing demonstrated reckless indifference for his well-being.

As to the question of negligence, the court noted a cruise ship operator defendant owes its passengers a duty of reasonable care under the circumstances. Defendant alleges plaintiff’s complaint alleges a heightened duty of care because the claim is based partially on ship employee’s failure to monitor security cameras, and that no such duty exists under maritime law. Defendant cited prior case law – specifically a 2006 decision in Mizener v. Carnival Corp. – wherein the court held placement of a camera aboard a vessel doesn’t create the duty to monitor that camera for the safety and security of passengers. However, the court in this case noted the difference was the plaintiff in Mizener didn’t claim he relied upon that camera or the cruise ship’s advertised claim of the security camera as a security measure.

Further, as to the question of notice of dangerous condition, the court found, contrary to defendant’s assertion, plaintiff’s allegations of knowledge of prior incidents were more than “threadbare.” Rather, evidence showed defendant was well aware of the necessity of having surveillance cameras aboard their vessel and appropriate security.

The court reversed summary judgment and allowed the case to be remanded for trial.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

L.A. v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, June 22,2018, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida

More Blog Entries:

Slip-and-Fall Injury Lawsuit Fails for Lack of Notice Proof, Aug. 6, 2018, Florida Cruise Ship Injury Attorney Blog

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