Federal Judge Denies Royal Caribbean’s Motion to Dismiss Minor’s Sexual Assault Case

Our case, L.A., a minor, by and through his mother, natural Guardian and next friend, T.A., vs. Royal Caribbean Cruises, LTD., is getting national attention regarding the U.S. District Court  for the Southern District of Florida’s order denying Royal Caribbean’s Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit. The case involves a 13-year-old boy who was on board the Independence of the Seas, a  Royal Caribbean’s cruise ship, with his mother and brother.

Our client, along with a group of friends, was peacefully sitting and talking in a public library under the watchful eye of surveillance cameras. His mother and older brother believed the 13-year-old to be safe, as he was instructed to only converse with his group of friends and to remain in the public space. The family had read about the cruise ship company’s great safety and security record and felt safe under the hundreds of surveillance cameras throughout the ship. Like most passengers, she never thought that her child would be at risk for a sexual assault aboard the cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean Had Notice of the Hazardous Condition 

gavel-300x201On the other hand, the cruise ship company had notice of a number of sexual assaults on their ships that had previously occurred, as well as on board other cruise lines, as alleged in the complaint filed against Royal Caribbean Cruises. The extent of these sexual assaults on board cruise ships drew national attention, including the attention of the United States Congress. The incidence of sexual assaults on board cruise ships was more than one would ever believe, leading to legislation requiring cruise ship companies to report sexual assaults so that statistical data could be kept and reviewed.

The Congressional Hearings, as well as many prior lawsuits involving sexual assaults on board cruise ships, has revealed that the cruise ship industry is on notice of the dangers of a passenger getting sexually assaulted during a cruise. However, the cruise ship company has determined that it is not in their best interest to specifically inform their passengers, or prospective passengers, of this known danger so that passengers do not feel a false sense of safety and security while on board a cruise, especially parents who travel with children.

In this particular case, the mother never contemplated that her son would be in potential danger on board the ship, especially remaining in public areas with other friends. Had she been warned that sexual assaults are known to occur on board cruise ships, and had she known of the frequency of such occurrences, as well as the fact that the surveillance cameras on board the cruise ship were not being monitored, she would not have let her son leave her direct supervision.

The Assailants Were Intoxicated

The assault happened at 2 AM, by two adult passengers. The records reflect that the passengers who assaulted the boy were heavily intoxicated, having drank heavily at the bars on board the ship. Despite this, the two adult passengers left the bars unsupervised, after having been served an excessive amount of alcohol, and they were able to assault the young boy without any security personnel observing them or in any way attempting to prevent the incident.

Where Was the Security on Board the Ship?

 One must also question the security presence when the young kids were congregated in the public library. Although they were peacefully sitting and talking, and not doing anything disruptive or improper, one must question why the cruise ship company did not have security to enforce a curfew with respect to minors. The kids had been in the library for some time before the actual attack occurred, and the cruise ship company should know that at this particular time, passengers are leaving the casinos and bars aboard the cruise ships, and that this is definitely a period of time with heightened dangers of some type of criminal activity occurring. This should cause an increase in security presence, including precautionary measures regarding monitoring intoxicated passengers, and checking the premises for young children who might be potential victims to an attack. In addition. one must wonder why public rooms such as the library remain open at 2 AM, without any security presence.

Some have tried to blame the minor’s mother for not confining her son in his room. However, as stated above, the minor’s mother had been lulled into a false sense of security by the surveillance cameras and the advertising of the cruise ship company regarding its safety and security record. She believed her son to be safe in the public area with other children, and had no reason to believe he could be a potential victim of a sexual assault on a cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean’s Duty

The District Judge’s order in this case denied Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss the lawsuit. In Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, the cruise ship company argued it has no duty to monitor their surveillance cameras.  The cruise ship company also claims that to impose any duty on them to protect the child in this case would be a heightened duty on their part not supported by any case law. However, the court properly recognized that the Defendant DOES have a duty to provide reasonable care for the safety of their passengers, and the question would be whether they failed in this case with respect to the minor child who was sexually assaulted in a public library at 2 AM by two intoxicated passengers.

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress

 In addition, the lawsuit alleges that following the incident, the cruise ship company chose to get the family of the young boy together with the two assailants and work matters out, placing everybody in the same room. During this time, the young boy was frightened and distraught because the assailant had told him that if he said anything about what occurred his “head would be cut off and thrown into the ocean.” The lawsuit alleges that the Defendant committed a tort under the law called intentional infliction of emotional distress by placing the boy in the same room as the assailants following the incident, and that the cruise ship company did that in order to try to avoid having the incident reported to the authorities. The victim’s mother insisted that the incident be reported to the authorities, and the Broward Sheriff Department promptly boarded the vessel upon its return to Port Everglades. Both assailants were criminally prosecuted by the state attorney and are currently serving jail time for what they did to this young boy.

The law suit seeks compensatory and punitive damages against Royal Caribbean Cruises for their negligent security, failure to warn their passengers about the dangers of sexual assault on board their ships, and for the intentional infliction of emotional distress suffered by the young boy.

Safety Advocates for Those Injured or Harmed at Sea

Our lawyers at Rivkind and Margulies, P.A., handle all types of incidents that involve injuries or deaths at sea. This includes incidents on board cruise ships involving sexual assaults or rapes of passengers or crew members. We have handled almost every type of incident or accident that can occur on board a cruise ship, including slip and fall accidents, accidents involving medical malpractice, accidents that occurred during shore excursions, as well as accidents that occur due to participation in the multitude of shipboard recreational activities that are offered these days aboard mega cruise ships. If you have any questions about your legal situation, contact us today for a free consultation.