It is no secret that many passengers are raped or sexually assaulted aboard cruise ships each year. This sad fact caused Congress to pass the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act. That Act requires, among other things, all 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/sexual assault be reported to the FBI. Moreover, maritime law holds a cruise line strictly liable for any sexual attack by its cruise staff against a passenger. However, there is a question as to the cruise line’s responsibility to passengers sexually assaulted by employees of the tour operators and concessionaires which are approved and recommended by the cruise lines. Recently, a federal court allowed a passenger who was drugged and sexually assaulted at a shore side restaurant recommended by Carnival Cruise Lines to maintain a lawsuit against the cruise line.
That case involved as passenger aboard the Carnival Paradise. One of the Carnival Paradise’s scheduled stops was Ensenada, Mexico. Carnival provided the passenger with a map listing certain areas and businesses that were safe to visit while in Ensenada. Relying on the cruise line’s representations, the passenger visited one of the listed restaurants listed on the map. While at the restaurant the passenger was drugged and sexually assaulted by a restaurant employee. The passenger sued the cruise line alleging, among other things, it was negligence for failing to warn her and the other passengers of the dangers of being drugged and/or sexually assaulted in Ensenada, failing to investigate the recommended businesses, and failing to protect passengers.
Carnival requested the court to dismiss the lawsuit arguing it did not owe the passenger any duty of care for the actions of the restaurant’s employee. Carnival specifically argued: (1) the passenger failed to state a claim as there was no duty by the cruise line to warn her that criminal acts occur generally, (2) the passenger failed to allege that the cruise was on notice of prior sexual assaults and druggings having occurred at the subject restaurant, (3) passenger failed to allege that the cruise line was on notice of the criminal propensities of the alleged assailant. Carnival also argued that even if it had a duty to warn the passenger of the possibility of a sexual assault or drugging, the intervening criminal act of a third party was the proximate cause of the passenger’s damages.
The court rejected Carnival’s arguments and found the passenger properly stated a legal claim of negligence against the cruise line and denied Carnival’s motion to dismiss the law suit.
If you would like to learn more about a cruise line’s responsibilities to a raped or sexually assaulted passenger, please read our article entitled: