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Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Sexual Assault / Rape Law

Sexual-Assault-Aboard-NCL-Cruise-Ship.jpgIt is being reported out of New York that a British passenger aboard the NCL operated Norwegian Breakaway grouped a 21-year-old New Jersey woman as she danced in the cruise ship’s Bliss Ultra Lounge. The sexual assault occurred at approximately 1:30 a.m. on September 4th. The 28-year-old man, identified as Ashley Berry, approached the victim by behind and groped her. He then fled the lounge. Ship’s security personnel followed Berry. The victim was later able to identify Berry as the man you assaulted her. He was arrested by the New York Police Department and charged with forcible touching and sexual abuse when the cruise ship returned to its Hudson River home port. Berry is being held on $500 bail and is expected to next appear in court on September 8th.

Sexual crimes aboard cruise ship has been so prevalent that Congress enacted the Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act which requires cruise lines to install various security systems and provide victims of sexual assault contact information for the FBI and local law enforcement as well as free and immediate access to a private telephone line and internet access by which the victim may confidentially access law enforcement officials, an attorney and the support services available through the National Sexual Assault Hotline program.

Seal.pngA Georgia woman has filed suit against Norwegian Cruise Lines in the U.S. Southern District of Florida alleging she was raped by a bartender of the cruise line while she was a passenger aboard the M/V Norwegian Sky. According to the Complaint, the bartender singled out the woman and plied her with alcohol and/or spiked her beverage.

The woman claims the bartender took her to into an isolated crew-only storage room on deck 12 and shut the door, moments later the bartender entered the storage room and refused to let the woman out despite her repeated pleas. The last event the woman recalled before coming to on deck 11, was the man pushing her head down toward his penis and telling her to be a “good girl.”

Upon coming to the woman claims she was sore in her private parts. She immediately reported the events to a security officer who rather than taking her directly to the infirmary took her to her room and had her drink water and eat while interviewing her. The complaint alleges that crew officials intentionally disregarded rape kit protocols, interfered with the collection of evidence and/or spoliated evidence from the sexual assault and potentially any substance in the alcoholic beverages she consumed.

Brock Christain Hammerstrom.jpgA second arrest was made in recent days involving the alleged sexual assault of a minor during a Destin, Florida dolphin sightseeing cruise. Statements made to the police reveal that the underage girl was served wine on the cruise by two crewmembers without being asked for identification. At the end of the cruise, the girl stayed behind to talk to the crewmembers. She was taken below deck where one crewmember admitted to having intercourse with her. The suspect stated the girl told them she was twenty-four. It is unclear at this time as to whether the other crewmember had sex with the minor. Brock Christian Hammerstrom (pictured to the left) is one of the two crewmembers accused of the sexual assault.

Under maritime law, a cruise operator is strictly liable for any sexual assault perpetrated by one of its crewmembers against a passenger or guest. This means that even though the ship owner is unaware that the crewmember may commit a sex crime, it will still be legally responsible in a civil court for the damages the victim suffered from the assault. Such damages may include past and future medical / psychological treatment as well as pain and suffering.

The landmark case discussing a ship owner’s liability for the intentional torts of its crewmember is Doe v. Celebrity Cruises. In that case, a cruise ship waiter recommended a night club to female passengers when the ship docked in Hamilton, Bermuda. The crewmember met the girls at the club and mingled with them until the club closed. The victim became intoxicated from being overserved alcohol at the club. The crewmember, under the guise of escorting her back to the ship, took her to a nearby park and sexually assaulted her. The court found that since the crewmember worked for the shipowner his assault on the passenger, even after hours, was attributable to the cruise line.

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LA SPEZIA, Primocanale, an Italian news station, has reported that a cleaner working aboard the Costa Diadema sexually molested a 15-year-old-girl on October 23, 2015. The crew member’s name was not released by the Italian news station. However, he was identified as a 50-year-old man from Honduras. According to the Italian news station, the minor girl was traveling aboard the Costa Diadema with her aunt and uncle. On the day of the assault, she apparently returned alone to her cabin after dinner. Once inside the cabin, the crew member somehow entered her cabin and allegedly began touching and kissing the girl. She was thankfully able to escape and reported the assault to her aunt and uncle. The Costa Diadema was in port at the La Spezia terminal when the assault occurred. The crew member was arrested after Costa notified the police of the assault.
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Port of Baltimore.jpgU.S. Customs and Border Protection arrested two cruise passengers on outstanding warrants as they returned to Baltimore from a Caribbean cruise aboard the Carnival Pride. Christopher Turner, 45, of Lanham, Maryland was wanted for failing to appear in court on assault charges, while Christopher Main, 28, of Aliquippa, Pennsylvania was wanted for contempt of court and theft. The two passengers were traveling separately. Steve Sapp, a spokesperson for Custom and Border Protection, issued this warning, “If you do know that you have an outstanding arrest warrant, you need to know that we’re going to know that you’re on that ship.”
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carnival_liberty_alleged_rape.jpgReaders may remember from our Labor Day post that the Carnival Liberty experienced an engine-room fire while the ship was moored at the pier in St. Thomas, USVI. Multiple media outlets are now reporting that a crewmember aboard the same ship has been accused of raping a woman inside one of the ship’s cabins. The identity of the crewmember has not yet been released but authorities in Puerto Rico have allegedly detained the crewmember.

There are conflicting reports on whether the woman is a Carnival employee or whether she is a tourist/passenger. Her identity has also not been disclosed although a Carnival spokesperson has stated she is from Australia. The accused crewmember has not been formally charged by local authorities and it remains unknown whether this alleged rape has been reported to the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, as required by the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (“CVSSA”) legislation, a legislation that was designed to improve the security and safety aboard cruise ships.
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The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Carnival Cruise Lines Stateroom Steward on Saturday, August 15, 2015 when the vessel arrived at Port Canaveral, Florida. According to various media reports, a 46-year-old Honduran national named Yovany Sauzo-Batiz sexually assaulted a teenage boy under the age of 16 while the boy was in a public shower area aboard the vessel. Reports claim that Sauzo-Batiz first made efforts to engage the boy in conversation while the boy was at the vessel’s sauna. The boy then tried to get away from Sauzo-Batiz and walked to the shower area but Sauzo-Batiz followed and allegedly assaulted him.

Shortly after the assault is reported to have occurred, the boy’s father, with the assistance of other fellow passengers, detained Sauzo-Batiz until ship security arrived on scene. Carnival Cruise Lines reported the sexual assault before the vessel arrived at Port Canaveral. As a result, Brevard County Deputies were waiting at the port and were able to apprehend and arrest Sauzo-Batiz.
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Miami Cruise Ship Sexual Assault.jpgA sexual assault occurs in the United States every 2 minutes. Often times these attacks are unreported. Like most sexual assault situations, victims raped aboard cruise ships most often do not inform authorities. Sometimes, however, the victim does come forward. Last summer a student was raped aboard a Celebrity cruise ship. According to media reports, the incident occurred on the night of July 23, 2014 aboard the Celebrity Reflection. It is alleged that a man spiked the girl’s drink, sexually assaulted her then tried to rape her. She was found in her cabin is a compromising position. Upon returning to port, the police interviewed the victim and gathered evidence to prosecute her attacker. An arrest warrant has been issued. As of the date of this blog post, no arrest has been made.

We regularly receive inquires as to whether cruise lines could be found legally responsible for shipboard sexual assaults and rapes. Cruise lines may be required to pay for victims’ pain and suffering, loss of income and medical expenses in certain situations. What complicates the answer is that courts apply different legal standards depending upon whether the attackers are crewmembers or fellow passengers.

Cruise lines are strictly liable for passengers victimized by their crew members. This means that it is no defense that the attack occurred without the cruise line being provided an opportunity to prevent it from happening. It is also no defense that the crew member had a clean background check and did not show a propensity for aggression. Furthermore, the damages cap imposed by the Athens Convention for completely non-United States voyages does not apply.

Carnival Passenger Assault Law.jpgThe FBI has arrested 44-year-old Carnival Triumph passenger Joseph Allen on assault charges resulting in substantial bodily injury as the cruise ship docked at its home port of Galveston, Texas. Carnival Cruise Lines, in a press release, stated this past Wednesday there was a domestic dispute between Allen and his 14-year-old stepson requiring ship security to intervene. Allen was confined to his cabin for the remainder of the cruise. The 14-year-old passenger, after being evaluated by the ship’s medical doctors, was recommended to disembark in Cozumel for further medical treatment. The boy, however, finished the cruise. Texas news outlets are reporting that the assault happened on the third day of a six day voyage while the Carnival Triumph was docked in Progreso, Mexico. Allen, who according to the boy’s mother was drinking, attacked his stepson in one of the ship’s hallways. Other passengers reported the incident to ship security who intervened. Carnival security personnel stated the reason for the attack was that Allen claimed he was tired of being disrespected by the boy. The FBI has jurisdiction over maritime criminal matters occurring on cruise ships away from United States ports.

Photo Credit: KTRK Houston

New Cruise Saftey Law.jpgA new federal law passed earlier this month that requires the Department of Transportation to report crimes allegedly committed onboard a cruise ship. The new law is quite a departure from its predecessor, the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (hereinafter “Act”), which only made incident data available if the alleged crime was “no longer under investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.”

Opponents of the law maintain it is not necessary, arguing that the major cruise lines began providing crime data on their respective websites in 2013. However, it is important to note that the data provided on these websites cannot be relied on as a representative figure insofar as the total number of crimes that occur aboard cruise vessels. Specifically, the major cruise lines only report incidents that meet the requirements of the Cruise Vessel and Safety Act, which limit reporting to incidents involving “homicide, suspicious death, a missing United States national, kidnapping, assault with serious bodily injury … firing or tampering with the vessel, or theft of money or property in excess of $10,000.” Thus, if a crew member stole something from a passenger not in excess of $10,000, then the cruise lines were not required to publicly disclose it. The above may be characterized as an illustration of the lobby efforts by the Cruise Lines to modify the Act in a way that only certain crimes require disclosure.
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