A 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.