Recently in Cruise Ship Sexual Assault / Rape Law Category

March 29, 2015

Passenger Arrested for Assault aboard the Carnival Triumph

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

January 26, 2015

New Cruise Line Sexual Assault and Rape Reporting Law Champions Openness

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.

Continue reading "New Cruise Line Sexual Assault and Rape Reporting Law Champions Openness" »

June 1, 2014

Two Arrested for Raping Royal Caribbean Cruise Passenger

Galveston Cruise Rape.jpgJamaican news outlets are reporting two men were arrested for raping a fellow passenger aboard the Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas. The rape is reportedly to have occurred approximately 50 miles outside Jamaican waters on Thursday morning (5/29) while the cruise ship was approaching Falmouth. The men (both Americans) were supposedly partying with the victim the night before. The Navigator of the Seas conducts weekly voyages to the western Caribbean from Galveston, Texas.

Rapes and sexual assaults unfortunately occur with regularity aboard cruise ships. Our law firm is routinely contacted by cruise rape and sexual assault victims. Our attorneys are currently representing a victim of sexual assault which occurred in a ladies room aboard the Carnival cruise ship Magic which also leaves from Galveston.

March 25, 2014

Protecting the Rights of Cruise Rape Victims

Cruise Rape Attorney.jpgRape and other types of sexual assaults occur on cruise ships with regularity. These horrific events are often times not told to passengers. Cruise lines have a financial interest in not sharing the facts about crimes that occur on their watch involving their employees against people who pay them to vacation on their cruise ships. In fact, the cruise industry spends millions upon millions of dollars in advertising for the purpose of portraying cruises as a safe family vacation option. The lack of warning of the real dangers associated with cruising combined with the portrayal of safety gives regular people the false sense of security while cruising. This often leads to passengers letting their guard down which in turn leads to victimization.

Brais, Brais & Rusak has an established history of protecting women who were raped while on vacation. In a case handled by the firm against Norwegian Cruise Line, our lawyers argued the cruise line had a duty to warn its passengers about prior sexual assaults that occurred on its cruise ship so guests could be aware of the potentially dangerous atmosphere aboard the ship. As part of that litigation a Miami federal judge ordered the cruise line to disclose the number of reported sexual assaults on its ships within a period of 15 months prior to the subject rape. The information revealed was shocking as there were 23 prior instances of sexual assaults in little over a year! From this rather high number of sexual assaults occurring on NCL cruise ships during the months leading to our client's rape, the court concluded there was sufficient evidence to establish it was foreseeable to the cruise line that other passengers would be raped thus triggering the requirement of warning vacationers of the potential danger.

Recently we were contacted by a passenger from South Carolina in need of assistance. This young woman was raped in a restroom by a male crewmember aboard the Bahamas Celebration on the way back to Florida from the Bahamas. This cruise ship is operated Celebration Cruise Lines headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It appears that Celebration is intending to mount a vigorous defense as less than 24 hours after giving notice of Brais, Brais & Rusak's retention by the victim, we were notified a law firm was hired to represent the cruise line. Our firm is used to such tactics by cruise lines. In an effort to help represent our client, if you were on the Bahamas Celebration between March 8 - 10, 2014 and have information about a passenger being assaulted by a crewmember, please contact our firm toll free at (800) 499-0551.

October 28, 2013

Carnival Cruise Line Assault Victim Can Bring Negligence Lawsuit

Carnival Passenger Assault.jpgA Miami Federal Court has allowed a passenger assaulted by fellow passengers to bring a negligence claim against Carnival Cruises. In this case, a passenger cruising aboard the Carnival Pride was beat up by other passengers who were over served alcohol aboard the ship. The plaintiff claimed to have suffered severe permanent injuries to his face and jaw from the attack.

Carnival sought to dismiss the lawsuit by arguing the passenger failed to explain how the cruise line's conduct caused a group of passengers to assault the plaintiff. The court rejected this argument finding as a matter of law the injured plaintiff's complaint adequately alleged the cruise line's conduct of over serving alcohol to adolescent males lead to the attack.

Claims by cruise ship passengers who are victims of assault due to the over service of alcohol are on the rise. The sale of alcohol is a main profit center for the cruise lines. In fact, this law firm has discovered when certain cruise ships are not meeting its profitability quotas, they offer more alcohol related activities in order to encourage passengers to purchase more alcohol. Sadly when the cruise lines' business goals are in direct odds with passenger safety, passengers tend to become victims of physical and sexual assaults.

The cruise lawyers of BBR are very experienced with passenger assault claims. Feel free to contact our firm should you wish to learn more about your legal rights as a cruise passenger.

August 28, 2013

Cruise Ship Assault Lawyer's Tips for Passengers

Cruise Assault Lawyer.jpgIt seems each month there is a news report about a crewmember assaulting a passenger while on a cruise. Vacationers take cruises to relax and have fun. Cruise lines spend millions of dollars portraying their ships as the model of safety and security. This combination causes people to let their guard down and makes them a target for predators. Recently cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Disney, Carnival and NCL started releasing better statistics of crime committed on their ships. Statics coming from these cruise lines are quite disturbing and showcases the fact cruise ships are not safe places they appear.

Don't Be a Target

The best advice is to not let your guard down and position yourself to not become the target. This is accomplished by traveling in groups, not over indulging in alcohol, staying away from unlit secluded sections of the ship and not flashing money and expensive jewelry.

Cruise Assault Law

If the unthinkable happens, the law does protect the passenger. Our lawyers are regularly contacted by assault victims wanting to know how the law protects them. First and foremost, the law overwhelming favors the passenger who was assaulted by a crewmember. United States law holds the cruise line strictly liable for the deliberate actions of their crewmembers. This is a powerful arrow in the passenger's quiver. Since cruise lines are strictly liable they cannot argue traditional defenses such as the crewmember was not acting in the course or scope of his employment at the time of the attack or the cruise line did not know the crewmember has a violent streak. In short, the cruise line's only defense is the assault never occurred.

Proving Your Assault Claim

Since the cruise line's defense is the assault never occurred, it is imperative that evidence is gathered. To do this, you should immediately report the attack to the ship and seek out medical attention. It is also very important to obtain the crewmember's name. If you cannot find out his name, try to find out his position aboard the ship. Obtaining contact information of any witnesses to the assault will also help prove your case. Take pictures of your injuries and the scene of the attack. Finally, you are well served to contact an attorney who is very familiar with cruise law and has handled assaulted cases.

Hiring an attorney to represent you in an assault claim against a cruise line is an important decision and should not be based upon advertisement alone. The attorneys at BB&R are Florida Bar Board Certified Maritime Attorneys and have vast knowledge in the area of cruise passenger assault law. If you or a loved one has a claim and would like to know more, feel free to contact us for a free consultation.

November 22, 2012

Attorneys Keith Brais & Richard Rusak Obtain Ruling that Cruise Lines Can Be Held Responsible for Over Serving Passengers Alcohol

NCL Cruise Rape Lawyer.jpgMiami lawyers Keith Brais & Richard Rusak obtained a ruling from a Federal Court finding a cruise line can be held responsible for a rape caused by the over service of alcohol. The complaint failed in the Southern District of Florida alleges a passenger participated in a Norwegian Cruise Line organized pub crawl which occurred on the cruise ship NORWEGIAN SUN. After the pub crawl, the passenger remained at the last bar to have additional drinks with some of the other pub crawl participants. The plaintiff alleges she became intoxicated from the drinks served on the cruise ship. Court papers reveal the passenger walked to a public ladies room located near a café. While in a stall, a man opened the door, spun her around and raped her. Affidavits filed in the case assert due to her intoxicated state she was unable to fend off her attacker.

Norwegian Cruise Line filed a motion for summary judgment arguing the Florida "dram shop" statute applied to the service of alcohol aboard its cruise ships. The Florida dram shop statute shields companies from liability for injuries and damages caused by their service of alcohol except when the person served is under the age of 21 or the person served is known to be "habitually addicted" to alcohol.

The Federal Court rejected the application of the Florida dram shop statute. Instead, it followed the Florida state appellate court's legal holding in Hall v. Royal Caribbean Cruises which found the statute is contrary to the uniformity of maritime law. This case solidifies the maritime law that a cruise line has a duty to exercise reasonable care for its passengers including reasonable care in the service of alcohol. A copy of the Court's order can be found at this link.

November 16, 2012

Brais Law Attorneys Obtain Ruling Requiring Cruise Line to Warn Passengers of the Risk of Being Raped / Sexual Assaulted Aboard Cruise Ships

Norwegian Cruise Passenger Rape Attorney.jpgA Miami Federal Judge ruled Norwegian Cruise Line owed as a matter of law the duty to warn passengers of the risk of being raped and/or sexually assaulted aboard their cruise ships when such criminal acts are foreseeable. In this case a female passenger from Texas alleged she was over served alcohol during and after a cruise organized drinking event. Court documents reveal she left the bar to utilize a public ladies restroom near the ship's cafe. The assault victim claims that while in the restroom stall, a man entered, spun her around and raped her.

Attorneys Keith Brais & Richard Rusak with Brais law filed a lawsuit in Miami, Florida on behalf of the cruise ship passenger as required by the Norwegian's cruise ticket. Alleged in the complaint is that the cruise line failed to warn her of the risk of being sexually assaulted and/or raped onboard the ship. The cruise line filed a motion requesting the court to find that it did not have a legal duty to warn of potential criminal acts such as rape. In a pair of orders denying summary judgment, the court found a cruise line under maritime law does have the legal to warn of the risk of foreseeable criminal acts, including rapes and sexual assaults, on its ship. The court then allowed the rape claim to proceed to trial. This is the first opinion of its kind nation wide.

The court's orders can be viewed at this link and this link.

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.

January 31, 2012

Cruise Passenger Arrested for Raping a Teenage Girl aboard the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas Pleads Not Guilty

Royal Caribbean Cruise Passenger Rape Law.jpgAs we reported in the article Men Charged for Passenger Rape aboard Royal Caribbean Ship a 20-year Brazilian man and a teenage boy are accused of raping a 15-year girl during a cruise aboard the Royal Caribbean ship Allure of the Seas. Arrest reports state the boy lured the girl to his cabin under false pretenses then both men raped her after refusing to allow her to leave. The Brazilian national, Luiz Scavone, entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment Monday, January 30, 2012 on the count of lewd and lascivious acts on a minor. Scavone and his teenaged accomplice (name withheld from the public) await trial for their alleged sexual assault in Broward County Circuit Court.

January 5, 2012

Men Charged for Passenger Rape aboard Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship

Royal Caribbean Cruise Passenger Rape Law.jpgFt. Lauderdale, Florida: Law enforcement arrested Luiz Scavone and a unnamed boy for the alleged rape of a teenaged passenger aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Allure of the Seas. Court documents allege Sacvone and an unnamed teenage boy sexually assaulted a 15-year-old passenger on the last night of a 10 day cruise. Police charged the suspects with lewd and lascivious battery. Arrest papers state the boy met the victim at the cruise ship's teen dance club called Fuel and invited her to a party. The victim stated she thought she would be meeting friends, but when she arrived at the boy's cabin, Scavone, was there. The girl told them she had a curfew and tried to leave. Shortly thereafter both males raped her. The victim reported the sexual assault immediately to Royal Caribbean ship officials.

Scavone appeared before the Broward County Court on January 4th wherein bond was set at $10,000. The Judge also ordered he be outfitted with a GPS monitor if released from jail. Though bond was given, the Federal government placed Scavone on an immigration hold where he cannot be released from jail.


CBS4's Coverage of the Case


January 3, 2012

Cruise Passenger Sexual Assault Victim Hires Brais & Brais' Attorneys

Cruise Passenger Sexual Assault Lawyer.jpgA cruise ship passenger who was sexually assaulted aboard the Norwegian Sky retained the maritime attorneys of Brais & Brais to represent her in a claim against Norwegian Cruise Lines. On the morning of April 11, 2011, a crew member approached Brais & Brais' client, made inappropriate remarks about her body, followed her around the cruise ship and forcibly perpetrated a sexual assault. The trauma of the attack is profound and long lasting. This is the second time in recent months a passenger retained Brais & Brais in regard to a sexual assault aboard a NCL cruise ship.

Cruise lines are strictly liable under maritime law for a sexual assault committed by a crew member against a passenger. This means the cruise line is responsible for damages even though it had no way of stopping the crew member from attacking the passenger. So strong is the law, courts have even held cruise lines responsible for passenger sexual assaults and rapes by crew members occurring on land at various ports of calls.

If you would like to learn more about law as it relates to cruise ship sexual assault, feel free to contact the Florida Bar Board Certified Maritime lawyers of Brais & Brais.

June 21, 2011

Brais & Brais Files Rape & Sexual Assault Lawsuit against NCL on Behalf of a Cruise Passenger

Brais & Brais Cruise Rape Law Firm.jpgBrais & Brais' lawyers filed suit against NCL on behalf of a passenger who asserts she was raped and sexually assaulted in a public bathroom aboard the Norwegian Sun cruise ship. On April 11, 2011, the passenger (whose name is kept confidential due to the extreme nature of this lawsuit) was participating in an NCL organized "pub crawl" whereby crewmembers took her and other guests throughout the cruise ship stopping briefly to drink at various bars. The complaint alleges the bartenders aboard the ship encouraged passengers to drink above their limits. At one stop the passenger refused the drink offered, but the bartender insisted she drink, returned the beverage to her and stated "no wastee, no wastee." After the event, the passenger went to a public bathroom. While in a stall, she heard her name called. The next thing she knew, the door to the stall busted open, a man spun her around and raped her.

The complaint filed in Miami, Florida Federal Court alleges NCL created an unreasonably dangerous condition by feeding the passenger high amounts of alcohol to the point where she became a target for a sexual predator and was unable to defend herself. The complaint also alleges NCL breached its duty to the passenger by not escorting her to her cabin after the event or otherwise protect her while in a vulnerable condition.

It is terrible but rapes and sexual assaults occur on cruise ships with some regularity. In fact, during a short 5 month period 41 attacks were reported among the 25 major cruise lines. Such a high number is staggering. Based on these 41 reports, the FBI opened 13 investigative cases. According to the FBI, 5 of these cases were later closed due to victim reluctance to press charges or because the government declined to prosecute.
The problem of cruise ship rapes and sexual assaults was addressed by Congress with the passage of the Cruise Vessel Safety & Security Act. Signed into law on July 27, 2010, this Act requires, among other things, all cruise ship cabin doors be outfitted with peepholes, limited access to cabins by crewmembers, rape kits available at the ship's medical faculty and that all claims of rape and sexual assault be reported to the FBI.

June 21, 2011

Cruise Lines Cannot Hide Behind International Treaties to Avoid Cruise Passenger Rape Lawsuits

Cruise Passenger Rape Sexual Assault Attorney.gifSexual assaults and rapes do happen to cruise passengers. In fact, there are several claims of rape and sexual assaults aboard cruise ships each year. This problem was so prolific that in 2010 Congress enacted the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act. This law is designed to enhance passenger safety aboard cruise ship and require cruise lines to report any rape or sexual assault of an American to the FBI.


Cruise Passenger Sexual Assault and Rape Law

American courts hold cruise lines strictly liable for sexual assaults and rapes perpetrated by crew members against passengers. This means a cruise lines are responsible for its passenger who are raped by a crew member despite a having a company no fraternization policy and even if the crew member was a model employee before the attack. It is easy to understand the cruise lines do not like this law and have attempted to find loopholes.


The Athens Convention

One such loophole cruise lines have attempted to avoid strict liability in sexual assault and rape cases is by applying an international treaty called the Athens Convention. In simple terms, the Athens Convention limits a cruise line's liability for a passenger's injury or death to approximately $71,000. This little known limitation is buried in the back of the passenger cruise tickets.

The good news is this international convention only applies where the ship does not touch a U.S. port for the entire cruise. Cruise lines cannot apply the Athens Convention to sexual assaults and rapes or any other type of claim occurring on cruises leaving from, returning to, or calling upon, United States ports. This leaves the convention theoretically applying to cruises purely touching foreign ports such as Mediterranean, Northern Europe and Asian cruises.

The limitation provisions of the Athens Convention, however, do not apply to what are known as intentional torts. An intentional tort is an action which was meant to cause harm. Specifically the Athens Convention states:

The carrier shall not be entitled to the benefit of the limits of liability [in the Convention], if it is proved that the damage resulted from an act or omission of the carrier done with the intent to cause such damage, or recklessly and with knowledge that such damage would probably result. Obviously, passenger sexual assaults and rapes can be only intentional.


Farraway v. Oceana Cruises, Inc.

The Southern District Court of Florida located in Miami applying the intentional tort exclusion of the Athens Convention recently found a cruise line cannot apply the limitations of the Convention in a case where a child claimed she was raped by a crewmember and falsely imprisoned by the cruise line. This ruling makes sense and is consistent with courts unwillingness to allow cruise lines escape liability for rapes and sexual assaults perpetrated on their passengers by crewmembers.


Conclusion

Cruise passengers should be on guard when they travel. However, if the unthinkable occurs, American courts have protected its citizen. The none application of the Athens Convention limitations is the latest situation where a court refused to allow a cruise line to avoid liability for a sexual attack by its crewmember against a passenger.