Recently in Cruise Ship Sexual Assault / Rape Law Category

September 18, 2015

Two Arrested on the Carnival Pride as Cruise Ship Returned to Baltimore

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." This statement is interesting. If the government knows that a fugitive will be on a certain cruise, why is the government and the cruise lines not working together to arrest the person while he attempts to board the cruise ship at the port on embarkation? It stands to reasons that passengers' safety would be better suited by arresting accused criminals before they embark the cruise ship than allowing them to sail with vacationing families. Both men were turned over to Maryland Transportation Authority Police for adjudication.

Photo Credit: MDBIZNews

September 13, 2015

Reported Rape aboard Carnival Cruise Ship Liberty

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.

Cruise lines are strictly liable for persons victimized by their crew members. There is generally no defense that the attack occurred without the cruise line being provided with an opportunity to prevent the attack from happening. Under strict liability, it is also generally no defense that the crew member had a clean background check and did not show a propensity for aggression.



August 17, 2015

Teenage Boy is reported to have been sexually assaulted by a Stateroom Steward working aboard the Carnival Valor

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.

Sauzo-Batiz has been charged with sexual battery of a person under 16 and lewd and lascivious molestation. He was arraigned this past Sunday where his bond was raised from $95,000 to $135,000, as Sauzo-Batiz, according to the State, is a flight risk. Sauzo-Batiz was ordered to turn over his passport and to refrain from having any contact with the boy or the boy's family. As of Sunday, August 16, 2015, Sauzo-Batiz remained at the Brevard County Jail.

A Carnival Cruise Lines spokesperson has stated that "All crewmembers undergo background checks and are provided the appropriate seaman's visa." It is unknown whether the appropriate background check was undertaken in the case of Sauzo-Batiz. It is also unknown whether any third parties may have witnessed the alleged assault.

In July 2010, Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act ("CVSSA") legislation, legislation that was designed to improve the security and safety of passengers aboard cruise ships such as the Carnival Valor. Under the CVSSA, cruise lines are required to report all sexual assaults, rapes, and other violent crimes to the appropriate authorities. This includes the filing of reports of all rapes and sexual assaults with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security. Despite the above legislation and to the detriment of unsuspecting passengers, passenger assaults on cruise ships continue. The FBI is also investigating this incident, and Carnival Cruise Lines has said that it provided "full support" to the victim and is cooperating with law enforcement.




May 14, 2015

Legal Issues Concerning Cruise Ship Sexual Assaults

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.

The imposition of strict liability is not applied when the attackers are fellow passengers. In such situations, maritime law applies a reasonable care under the circumstances standard. This means, victims must show that the cruise lines knew or should have known the other passengers would commit attacks or that the cruise lines cultivated an atmosphere wherein sexual assaults or rapes would likely occur. The Doe v. NCL case highlights a situation where a passenger participated in a pub crawl organized by the cruise line and was thereafter raped. This event took passengers to multiple bars aboard the ship where certain games were played. The group at the end of the crawl won a shot of tequila. The passenger became intoxicated during the cruise line sponsored pub crawl. She then went into a public restroom aboard the cruise ship and was raped by a fellow passenger. The legal theory advanced was that the cruise line created an atmosphere which left its female passengers defenseless and prime targets for sexual perpetrators without so much as a warning to its passengers of the history of prior instances of sexual assaults aboard the cruise line's ships. The court in that case allowed the passenger's claim to proceed after the cruise line tried to dismiss the proceedings.

As shown, the civil law is complex regarding protection of passengers who were victimized on the high seas. Deciding whether or not to bring a sexual assault claim is a very big decision. We have helped many victims against large cruise lines. Should you like to learn more about your rights, you may contact our Board Certified Admiralty and Maritime attorneys for a free and confidential consultation.

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 & Cerda-Collazo 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 & Cerda-Collazo'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.