Recent Cruise Ship Sexual Assault is a Reminder to Take Precautions

In a horrible incident, a cruise ship worker who plead guilty to charges that he brutally assaulted, physically and sexually, a cruise ship passenger on a Holland America Cruise, has now changed his mind, and wants a trial to determine his guilt.

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The Attack Inside the Passenger’s Cabin

According to the assailant’s own confession at his initial plea hearing, he was motivated by what he believed to be insults to his mother. According to him, the passenger called him a “son of a bitch” on numerous occasions, when he was delivering food to her onboard cabin. He took that as an affront to his mother.

After stewing in anger for some time, he later broke into the passenger’s cabin using a cruise-ship issued master key. He attacked the passenger while she slept, brutally attacking her with a curling iron, a telephone, and other objects in the cabin. He strangled her with the telephone line, as she fought back desperately. He then attempted to have forcible sex with the victim. She survived but was airlifted to a Ft. Lauderdale hospital after the attack.

The crewmember escaped the room half naked, jumping from balcony to balcony and entering other rooms in order to flee the ship, before he confessed to a co-worker what he had done.

The maximum sentence is life in prison. The worker first agreed to a plea deal, meaning he admitted the charges, but has now changed his mind.

Civil Suits Can Be Brought for Assaults

Although there is no mention of any civil suit in this case, it is certainly worth noting that cruise lines can be sued civilly, not just for negligent or careless acts, but also for purposeful, intentional, and criminal acts committed by their employees.

In many cases, injured passengers may be able to show that assailants have had a violent or criminal past that the cruise line ignored, or else to which the cruise line took a deliberate indifference. A cruise line can be responsible if they ignore a crewmember’s checkered past or fail to conduct background checks.

Many crewmembers may even have a history of discipline upon the very same ship they are working. A cruise line that allows a crewmember with a history of fighting, inappropriate behavior, or violence, to possess a master key to passengers’ rooms, may have civil liability towards victims.

Often, the only real recourse for victims are civil suits, because believe it or not, criminal convictions from on board sexual assaults can be very difficult. Cruise ships are not law enforcement agencies, and don’t have the training or resources to properly preserve and investigate crime scenes. By the time the ship docks, evidence may be moved, tainted, or stale. This makes criminal convictions very difficult.

Of course, the best course is to avoid being a victim at all. Remember that many of these crewmembers are from countries that keep poor or no background records at all, and to that end, passengers should take measures to protect themselves. One way is to register complaints with crewmembers’ supervisors, as opposed to making threats or insults to them directly.

If you’re injured at sea for any reason, don’t wait, and certainly don’t guess on your own whether you have a valid civil claim for damages or not. Talk to the Florida cruise ship accident attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. for a free consultation to discuss your rights.

Photo Credit: ecstaticist via Compfight cc

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