June 2012 Archives

June 24, 2012

A Pair of Jet Ski Accidents in Sarasota County, Florida Leave 2 Men Severely Injured

Law enforcement from Sarasota, Florida responded to a Jet Ski accident on Sunday, June 17, 2012 wherein a man's arm was nearly severed. According to a Sarasota Fire Rescue spokesperson, two men were riding the personal watercraft in Big Pass between Lido Key and Siesta Key. When the men attempted to jump a wake of a passing boat, the rider in the back fell off and was run over by a 26 foot cabin cruiser. The injured man was medevaced to Tampa General Hospital to have surgery to re-attach his arm.

Later that day Carlos Dominguez, a 26-year-old Sarasota man, was severely injured when he fell off his personal watercraft also in Big Pass. A spokesperson from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports Dominguez turned in front an oncoming 32-foot Intrepid operated by 43-year-old Dean Dougherty. The Intrepid ran over Dominguez while he was in the water.

Both incidents are still under investigation.

June 2, 2012

NCL Assistant Cruise Director Pled Guilty of Possessing Pornographic Photos of a Cruise Passenger

NCL Rape Lawyer.jpgSenad Djedovic, a former assistant cruise director for Norwegian Cruise Lines, pled guilty to possessing child pornography depicting a cruise passenger. The once NCL employee faces as much as 10 years in prison for having photos of an underage girl he had sex with on the NORWEGIAN STAR cruise ship.

Court records reveal the assistant cruise director had sex with a 16-year-old female passenger on the cruise ship after it departed for a seven day cruise from Tampa in January. A statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida reads, "After the minor departed the vessel, Djedovic began exchanging emails with her. In a series of emails spanning several weeks, Djedovic commented about her age and asked the minor to send him sexually explicit photos of herself". The NORWEGIAN STAR'S assistant cruise director showed the photographs to fellow crewmembers and told them she was a minor. The government's statement further revealed, "A search of Djedovic's personal computers revealed additional videos and images of minors engaging in explicit sexual activity.'' Dejedovic worked for Norwegian Cruise Lines from 2006 through early March 2012.

June 1, 2012

Federal Law Provides Child Victims of Sexual Assault / Exploitation by Crewmembers Remedies against Cruise Lines

Cruise Rape Law.jpgChild victims of sexual assault / exploitation aboard cruise ships have been handed a victory in Federal Court. Former U.S. Public Defender for the Southern District of Florida now U.S. District Court Judge, Kathleen Williams, ruled cruise lines can be held civilly liable for their crewmembers' violation of the certain federal laws designed to protect children. Originally enacted as part of The Child Abuse Victims' Right Act, Federal Statute 18 U.S.C. § 2255 provides minors who are victims of certain crimes involving sexual abuse, molestation, exploitation and other violent acts with a civil cause of action against those responsible. The federal statute, however, is silent as to whether only the perpetrator can be civilly penalized for such violent acts against children. Given the wording of the statute, an open legal question existed as to whether others responsible for the perpetrator's conduct may also be held liable under the statute.

Jane Doe No. 8 v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.

The scope of this federal statute was tested in a case involving an alleged sexual assault of a 17 year old passenger aboard a cruise ship operated by Royal Caribbean Cruises. The lawsuit alleges a cruise ship bartender served the minor dangerous amounts of alcohol then a cruise ship entertainer sexually assaulted and took sexually explicit photographs of her. The complaint filed in Miami, Florida set forth two counts against the cruise line under the statute. The lawsuit alleges the cruise line was vicariously liable for the actions of the crewmembers and such liability includes penalties under 18 U.S.C. § 2255.

The minor's lawyers argued since the language of the statute does not restrict its scope to only the perpetrator, it must encompass not only the perpetrator, but also the cruise line. Royal Caribbean argued the Court should not extend the scope of the Act to include anyone other than the perpetrator. Maritime law holds a cruise line strictly responsible for the intentional actions including sexual assaults, rapes and other violent acts of their crewmembers against passengers. The Court determined when enacting the statute Congress understood maritime law holds cruise ship operators strictly liable for their crewmembers' intentional acts against passengers. Armed with this knowledge or maritime law, Congress, in the Court's view, could have expressly limited the Act's scope to only the perpetrator, but, it did not. Therefore, the Court reasoned Congress intended to incorporate this maritime legal principle into the statute. Applying this statutory construction, the Court ruled 18 U.S.C. § 2255 provides children who were abused, exploited and/or victimized by a crewmember a direct claim against the cruise line in addition to existing maritime common (non-statutory) law.

Impact of the Jane Doe No. 8 Decision

This ruling has a significant impact upon maritime law. The statute states that any minor who is a victim of sexually assault, molestation, exploitation and other offenses can sue for compensatory damages and shall be deemed to have sustained damages of no less than $150,000 in value for each violation. Moreover, the statute provides the minor can receive attorneys' fees if he/she wins the lawsuit. This ruling changes the landscape of cruise law. Before this decision, there was no minimum recovery for child assault, rapes and exploitations perpetrated by crewmembers and attorneys' fees were not awardable.