A fourteen-year-old girl and her mother filed a lawsuit against Carnival Cruise Line, alleging that while the girl was a passenger, she was attending the Carnival Pride’s teen club known as Club 02, which led to her being raped by two fellow passengers. Club 02 is designed, marketed, and designated as a supervised area where smoking, alcohol consumption, and unruly behavior are supposed to be prohibited. However, Carnival does allow passenger over twenty-one to enter the area and does sell those passengers alcoholic beverages.

The girl’s mother spoke to the Club’s director, disclosed her daughter’s age, and believing there would be adequate supervision, she registered the child for the Club 02 Program. Court records indicate that on two separate occasions, the daughter engaged in sexual intercourse after having been lured to the stateroom of the older boys, where they had concealed alcohol. The law suit specifically alleged that Carnival failed to provide adequate adult supervision in Club 02 and permitted the escalation of sexual activity that resulted in the girl’s rape.

The complaint against Carnival Cruise Lines, filed in Federal Court in Miami, Florida, alleged Carnival’s negligence, fraudulent inducement, and concealing of known instances of sexual misconduct aboard its cruise ships. Carnival sought to dismiss the case, claiming that the rape was not “foreseeable” nor the result of any negligence on Carnival’s part; dismissal of a claim against one of the boys was also sought.

Cases like this are governed by general maritime law, which holds ship owners like Carnival responsible to their passengers to provide “reasonable care under the circumstances.” However, court after court has held that cruise lines are not “insurers” of a passenger’s safety and can be held responsible only when a passenger can prove the following:

(1) the cruise line had a duty to protect a passenger from a particular injury;

(2) the cruise line breached that duty;

(3) the breach actually and proximately caused the passenger’s alleged injury; and

(4) the passenger suffered an actual injury.

In dismissing the complaint, the Court found that the passenger failed to demonstrate both that Carnival’s alleged carelessness was the actual cause of the rape and that the criminal act was one that was foreseeable by Carnival, since the rape—an intervening criminal act—occurred in the boys’ stateroom rather than in a public area. The court went on to rule that the consensual touching that occurred in Club 02 was not behavior that Carnival had a duty to prevent or that would have led to her being raped in a private area of the ship.

In other words, since the girl left Club 02 voluntarily, then presumably became intoxicated in private, Carnival was not deemed to have been able to know or predict that she would be subsequently raped. The court allowed the case against one of the boys, which is still pending and will presumably proceed to trial.

This case represents several legal and factual issues that should be important to anyone with a potential claim against a cruise line.

Successfully suing Carnival Cruise Line or any other industry giant such as Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Norwegian, MSC, Princess, Disney, or others—is subject to the complex rules that govern maritime injury lawsuits. We did not represent this passenger, and we are sympathetic to her and her family for having been victimized by what appears to have been the careless conduct of the cruise line. However, we see case after case dismissed by Federal judges on both motions to dismiss and motions for summary judgment because of the inability to meet the rigorous legal demands of federal court litigation.

Successfully proving claims against cruise lines requires assembling facts that can demonstrate that the cruise line’s conduct caused the alleged injury. Cruise ship accident cases must first get past the pleading stage and survive motions to dismiss before a jury will ever hear what actually happened. This case shows that an innocent victim will never get her day in court against Carnival because the facts as alleged—and presumably as transpired—were not sufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss.

Not all accidents on cruise ships are viable claims. Understanding how to investigate and prove claims requires experience and sometimes sheer luck as to how a given judge will analyze each case based upon the unique facts and case law presented.  Our cruise ship accident law firm wishes this young lady the very best in her remaining claim against the person who committed the crime against her.

We also hope that any parents who take their children on cruises keep a watchful eye on their children and not rely on the cruise lines to provide supervision, either at swimming pools or in other areas and activities on their ships.

Our law firm provides a free initial legal consultation to anyone who has been injured aboard a cruise ship anywhere in the world. Please contact us today and speak with an experienced cruise accident lawyer by email at newcase@aronfeld.com, by telephone toll-free at 1-866-597-4529, direct at 305-441-0440, or by SKYPE. Since 1991 we have helped hold cruise lines accountable when they put their profits ahead of their passengers’ safety.