A 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.