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Articles Posted in Cruise Ship Sexual Assault / Rape Law

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 since 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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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.

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 Law Firm 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 Law Firm’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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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