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Articles Posted in Crime Victims

Carnival Corporation was dealt a heavy legal blow a few weeks ago when an appeals court reinstated a federal Florida case brought against it by the family of 15-year-old Liz Marie Perez Chaparro, a Carnival cruise ship passenger who was shot and killed during a shore excursion in the port of St. Thomas. See our related June 2, 2011 blog “Family of Carnival Cruise Ship Passenger Killed In St. Thomas Shootout Sues Cruise Line.” Carnival’s attorneys had argued that the Chaparros’ negligence suit called for standards of care higher than those that should apply to cruise ship operators, but the appeals court didn’t buy this and opened the case back up for trial. According to reporting in the September 5, 2012 edition of The Christian Science Monitor, this development has major significance “because it could further define to what extent cruise ship companies – part of a $29 billion industry – may be held liable for criminal acts perpetrated on passengers exploring various ports of call.”

When Onshore Crimes Against Passengers Are Foreseeable
As recounted in the appeals court record, Liz Marie and her family were vacationing aboard the Carnival cruise ship Victory on July 12, 2010, when they decided to disembark and visit Coki Beach, a tourist site on St. Thomas. When the family headed out to the Beach in an open-air bus, they were unaware that Coki Beach was plagued by gang-related crime, and that the funeral of a St. Thomas gang member was to take place, that day, in the vicinity. The bus got trapped in traffic as it passed the funeral site on its way from the Beach back to the Victory, and it was unable to break free when a gang-related gunfight broke out. Liz Marie was shot as bullets sprayed the trapped tourist bus, and she died before the bus could make it to a local hospital. Her family watched in horror as all of this transpired.

Though the Chaparros’ Coki Beach excursion was not officially sponsored by Carnival, Carnival was apparently quite familiar with Coki Beach, because it regularly sold excursion tickets to this destination. Attorneys for the family moreover asserted that because Carnival routinely monitors crime in its ports of call, Carnival had every reason to know the risks, at Coki Beach, for drug activity, theft, and gang violence. The Chaparros therefore argued in their initial filing that Carnival’s failure to warn them of the dangers in St. Thomas, and on Coki Beach, in particular, constituted negligence, as these dangers were entirely foreseeable to Carnival.

The Duty to Warn Against Foreseeable Onshore Crimes
Carnival initially succeeded in getting the Chaparros’ lawsuit dismissed, but the Chaparros persisted and appealed. When the federal appeals court reinstated their case, it stated that at trial, Carnival’s failure to warn the Chaparros of the dangers at Coki Beach would be scrutinized under the Florida-based legal principle that “a cruise line owes its passengers a duty to warn of known dangers beyond the point of debarkation in places where passengers are invited or reasonably expected to visit.” The appeals court added that this duty to warn is entirely consistent with federal maritime law, which requires shipowners to protect passengers against any risky conditions of which the ship owners are actually aware, or of which they should be aware.

Nothing can bring Liz Marie back to life, but as the Chaparros get their day in court, they shall be seeking damages for negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress. The emotional distress claim is brought on grounds that the Chaparros have suffered physical manifestations of the emotional trauma they experienced as they witnessed Liz Marie’s death (and as they sat fearing for their own lives) and that these injuries are the direct result of Carnival’s failure to warn them away from a well-known zone of danger.

Unfortunately, cruise ship passengers are likely to continue facing perils from criminal acts committed both on board and on shore, and they shall continue to need the effective legal representation that gives victims in such cases a chance at just compensation. Success in cruise ship accident cases depends on the up-to-date knowledge and mastery of specialized maritime litigation procedures that only highly experienced maritime attorneys can offer. Gerson & Schwartz has recovered millions of dollars in a wide variety of maritime personal injury cases, and we are dedicated to helping you should you need assistance in this area. For information on how we can help, call (305) 371-6000 or e-mail us at info@gslawusa.com.

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MIAMI, FL—Officials from the Broward Sheriff’s Office charged two Brazilian males, one of whom is 15 years old, with lewd and lascivious battery in connection with the alleged sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl aboard Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas cruise ship. According to information provided by NBC Miami, BSO and FBI detectives awaited the ship’s return to Port Everglades on Jan. 3, after Royal Caribbean officials reported the apparent cruise rape case to them.

Reports indicated an unidentified 15-year-old girl was at Fuel, a teen club aboard the Allure of the Seas cruise ship, when she met a teenage boy who invited her to his room on the basis that he was holding a party and she could meet friends there.

Upon entering the 15-year-old boy’s cabin, however, she evidently realized there was no party being held there whatsoever. In fact, the only other individual there was 20-year-old Luiz Scavone, who swiftly showed her to the bed and began attempting to disrobe her (with the help of the unidentified teen boy) against her will.

Although BSO reports suggested the teen girl told the two male cruise passengers that she had a curfew and needed to leave, they would not allow her to. The Brazilian men allegedly went on to force the young victim to perform oral sex on both of them. They then forced the girl—who alleged said “no” multiple times—to have sex with both of them as well.

Royal Caribbean officials told reporters a “guest care team offered the female guest a variety of assistance, including medical care and counseling.” Authorities arrested both suspects at Port Everglades on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after the attack was said to have taken place.

Scavone is reportedly being detained at the Fort Lauderdale-based Main Jail. It was not clear if the teen suspect—whom is being charged as a juvenile—was detained upon being arrested in the cruise rape case.

According to statistics posted on the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) website, the FBI regarded sexual assault as the leading crime reported on cruise ships, accounting for 55 percent of all maritime crimes reported to the bureau.

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MIAMI, FL—A Los Angeles man who murdered his wife aboard a Carnival cruise ship in July 2009 was sentenced to life in prison in San Diego court on Dec. 8. According to information provided by the Associated Press, the 57-year-old defendant pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges in connection with the cruise ship slaying.

U.S. Chief District Judge Irma Gonzalez sentenced Robert McGill to life in prison after he confessed to killing his wife, Shirley while aboard the Carnival Elation cruise ship.

Reports indicated that McGill and his wife initially embarked on a 5-day cruise voyage to Cabo San Lucas—located in the Baja California peninsula of Mexico—as a means of celebrating his birthday. On July 14, however, their Carnival cruise vacation took a violent and deadly turn.

According to Gonzalez, “Whatever good he has done in the past, whatever decency he had in the past, he left on the bathroom floor on July 14.” McGill reportedly attacked his wife before strangling her to death in the bathroom of their cabin aboard the Carnival cruise ship. The federal judge noted that McGill washed himself off before exiting his cabin to go smoke a cigar on the cruise vessel’s upper deck.

Upon being interrogated by FBI agents who were investigating the cruise murder, McGill claimed he attacked his wife while in an alcohol-induced hallucinogenic state. McGill told investigators he consumed approximately 8 beers, as well as half a bottle of Mezcal (a Mexican alcoholic beverage occasionally bottled with a scorpion inside) on July 14. 

McGill’s defense attorney attempted to persuade Gonzalez to sentence McGill to 11 years and 3 months in prison on the grounds that his client’s violent actions were a result of excessive alcohol consumption, but to no avail.

According to the Miami cruise ship injury attorneys of Gerson & Schwartz, more cruise ship industry reform is needed to adequately protect travelers and employees from preventable injuries, assaults, rapes, and in extreme cases such as the one above, murder.

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MIAMI, FL— November 24, 2011 – FBI agents on Nov. 19 arrested and charged a 35-year-old Carnival Cruise Lines crew member upon receiving a report alleging the employee engaged in illicit sexual conduct with an underage cruise ship passenger. According to information provided by the Miami Herald, the unidentified 14-year-old victim waited until she returned home to tell her family about the incident.

Reports suggested Carnival Liberty cruise ship waiter Kert Clyde Jordan is accused of persuading the young girl to follow him to a bathroom on the vessel’s Lido deck and then proceeding to have unlawful sex with her. The alleged sexual encounters occurred on Nov. 4 and 5, as the Liberty cruise ship was seemingly navigating international waters.

Federal officials took the Carnival cruise waiter into custody in Florida on Nov. 19. He was charged with engaging in a sexual act with a person under the age of 16 shortly after the child sex victim identified him to the FBI. On Nov. 22, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced that Jordan, whom is originally from Grenada, was still under federal lockup in connection with the cruise ship sex crime. The case is underway.

According to a statement released by Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines, “Carnival has a zero tolerance policy for crime and we take any allegations of crime extremely seriously. We continue to provide our full cooperation and support to federal law enforcement authorities. Our Care Team has reached out to offer support and express our utmost concern for our guest and her family during this difficult time.”

According to statistics posted on the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) website, the FBI regarded sexual assault as the leading crime reported on cruise ships, accounting for 55 percent of all maritime crimes reported to the bureau.

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MIAMI, FL—November 16, 2011 – A negligence lawsuit has been filed in connection with the fatal shooting of a deaf and mute man who tried to steal a WaveRunner from a waterfront Miami Shores home on May 21, according to NBC Miami and previous reports by the Miami Herald. The family of the would-be jet ski thief, whom was apparently unarmed at the time of the attempted robbery, is apparently suing the parents of the 14-year-old boy who pulled the trigger for both negligence and vicarious liability.

The parents of 14-year-old Jack Davis, the suburban Miami teen who shot and killed 20-year-old Hialeah man Reynaldo Muñoz Jr. during a robbery attempt nearly six months ago, are facing vicarious liability and negligence claims in connection with the fatal incident.

Previous reports suggested Jack Davis witnessed Muñoz trying to steal his family’s jet ski and subsequently retrieved his father’s shotgun from inside his home. The young teen then shot Muñoz in the back of the head, ultimately causing him to suffer fatal injuries.

While the shooter’s mother, Yasmine Davis initially told a 911 dispatcher that she was the individual to pull the trigger, an unidentified individual reportedly overheard her ordering her son to shoot Muñoz.

Yasmine Davis also told the 911 dispatcher that she fired the shotgun after Muñoz threatened that he was armed, though investigations and interviews with Muñoz’s family members and friends later revealed that it would have been nearly impossible for Muñoz to threaten Jack Davis or his mother.

This, they explained, was due to the fact that since Muñoz was both deaf and mute, he struggled with his speech and in most cases, was unable to enunciate his words properly. Furthermore, the shotgun that was used to shoot Muñoz in the back of the head was the only weapon found at the scene.

Muñoz’s parents Reynaldo Muñoz Sr. and Caridad Lopez are being represented in the pending the wrongful death lawsuit, which names both Jeffrey and Yasmine Davis as defendants. While Jeffrey Davis appears to be the owner of the firearm that his son used to kill the intruder, he was not present at the time of the deadly Miami shooting.

Under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law, residents and visitors have the right to use deadly force against any individual who unlawfully breaks into their home and/or vehicle. In this particular case, however, the plaintiffs claim the use of lethal force was unjustified. A lawyer representing Muñoz’s parents contended that while Muñoz’s robbery attempt was indeed unlawful, grand theft does not constitute the death penalty.

The case is underway.

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MIAMI, FL—October 25, 2011 – An Ohio husband who witnessed his wife get pulled into the propellers of a boat during a snorkeling expedition off the coast of Belize has filed a lawsuit alleging both wrongful death and negligence. According to information provided by the Seattle Times, Seattle-based cruise ship company Holland America and Belize-based snorkeling excursion company Cruise Solutions are being sued in connection with the horrific Feb. 2010 cruise accident.

Reports suggested Michael Mechling and his wife Diana boarded a Holland America cruise ship in Feb. 2010, seemingly under the premise that they would be able to participate in various tours and expeditions during their Caribbean cruise voyage. Unfortunately, one of those excursions took an unexpected turn for the worse.

According to a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit filed in Seattle on Oct. 18, the Mechlings were on a snorkeling trip off the coast of Belize when something went horribly wrong. Almost immediately after Diana Mechling leapt from the boat and into rough waters, the tour boat operator reversed in an attempt to stabilize the vessel.

The lawsuit alleged, “Michael Mechling realized that he could not see Diana Mechling and began yelling, `Where is my wife?'” Mrs. Mechling, who was behind the boat when the operator shifted it into reverse, was consequently pulled beneath the vessel and into its propellers. Although the severely injured cruise ship passenger was conscious upon being transported to a hospital, her wounds ultimately proved fatal.

Mr. Mechling is seeking unspecified compensation in connection with the fatal cruise accident

Although Cruise Solutions did not comment on the pending negligence lawsuit, Holland America spokesperson Erik Elvejord stated, “Holland America Line is aware that a complaint has been filed and we extend our sympathies to the family for their loss. However, as is company policy, we do not comment on legal matters.”

*The Miami personal injury law firm of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. has no affiliation with the case above.

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MIAMI, FL— October 21, 2011 – Miami-based Royal Caribbean cruise line is being sued in connection with the alleged rape of a South African woman who was working aboard a Celebrity cruise ship at the time of the attack, the Miami New Times reported. Although the former cruise ship employee reported the sexual attack to cruise line officials, doing so led to her being quarantined in her cabin without medical attention for several days and then ultimately dropped back off in South Africa, according to the pending lawsuit.

Given that no foreign police authorities investigated the alleged cruise ship rape and given that the FBI had no jurisdiction to do so—as the attack was said to have occurred off the coast of Israel—the sexual assault victim was left with no means of seeking justice. The maritime injury lawsuit claims the victim was raped after having a drink in her co-worker’s cabin and blacking out for unknown reasons.

After being confined to her cabin and denied medical care (including anti-retro viral drugs, which are used as a means of preventing the potential contraction of HIV) for multiple days, the foreign cruise worker was dumped back in her country. Although Royal Caribbean would not comment on the pending lawsuit, which was filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court on Aug. 31., the suit suggested the popular Miami-based cruise line’s decision to bring the victim back to South Africa was an attempt to dodge liability in the case.

The lawsuit further alleges that although the rape victim suffered severe emotional distress and was left unable to work, cruise officials ultimately refused to provide the woman with compensation for her post-rape medical care and therapy sessions. The case is underway.

According to statistics posted on the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) website, the FBI regarded sexual assault as the leading crime reported on cruise ships, accounting for 55 percent of all maritime crimes reported to the bureau.

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MIAMI, FL— October 4, 2011 – Upon analyzing FBI data and sexual assault reports on three major cruise lines, researchers concluded that individuals are more vulnerable to sex crimes aboard cruise ships than they are on land in Canada. Study leaders Dr. Jill Poulston, the Auckland University of Technology (AUT) head of hospitality, and Ross Klein, a professor at Canada’s Memorial University of Newfoundland, found that Royal Caribbean International cruise line, for instance, received no less than 450 reports of sexual abuse aboard its cruise vessels over an eight-year span, the New Zealand Herald reported.

The cruise ship sexual assault study, which focused for the most part on American and Canadian cases, found that the majority of sex attacks involved ship crew members and the majority of sex assault and rape victims were female.

Furthermore, researchers were able to determine that in more than one third of the alleged sexual assault cases, cruise ship crew members appeared to have forcefully entered passengers’ cabins.

According to AUT’s Dr. Poulston, “While cruise vacations are often sold as voyages of romance and adventure a significant number of passengers have very different and very unpleasant experiences.” Poulston also suggested that the high number of sex crimes could be partly attributed to cruise ship passengers who “let their guard down” on vacation.

Incident reports by Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Lines suggested, “The rate of sex-related incidents on cruise ships is almost 50 per cent higher than the rate of sexual assault on land in Canada.”

Celebrity Cruises-owner Royal Caribbean said on its website, “Royal Caribbean International is committed to preventing illegal activity and treats all allegations seriously.”

According to statistics posted on the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) website, the FBI regarded sexual assault as the leading crime reported on cruise ships, accounting for 55 percent of all maritime crimes reported to the bureau.

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MIAMI, FL— August 18, 2011 – In yet another case of horror on the high seas, a 19-year-old man admitted to sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl during a vacation aboard a Carnival cruise ship in March. According to information provided by Alabama Live, Dylan Cole Bloodsworth, of Mississippi, pleaded guilty to child sexual abuse and enticement charges in connection with the cruise assault.

Reports indicated the unidentified victim was on a cruise voyage to Mexico with her friend and friend’s mom when she met Bloodsworth. According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Maria Murphy, the teenage girl was sexually assaulted when she accompanied Bloodsworth to his room on the basis that she believed he would merely be fetching his jacket.

Once in Bloodsworth’s cabin, the 19-year-old proceeded to have sex with the minor, who told investigators she did not consent to the encounter. The teen also alleged that she was hurt in the sexual attack, which occurred on the Carnival Elation cruise ship.

On August 16, Bloodsworth, who initially claimed, “I don’t think there was force or coercion involved,” stood before federal prosecutors in Alabama and entered a “blind” guilty plea to charges including sexual abuse of a child and enticement of a minor.

Furthermore, Bloodsworth was charged with sexual battery after allegedly sexually assaulting a minor, also only 13 years of age, in Mississippi. Those charges remain pending.

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MIAMI, FL—July 26, 2011 – Pittsburgh prosecutors offered a plea agreement on July 20, 2011 to a 72-year-old man who boarded a Royal Caribbean cruise ship with the intention of engaging in illicit sexual activity with children in 2009. According to information provided by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, prosecutors evidently offered the plea deal upon considering the defendant’s age and psychological background, as well as the duration of the said molestation.

Associated Press reports indicated surveillance cameras aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Liberty of the Seas caught ex-chemical engineer Sherwood Stevenson inappropriately touching a 6-year-old boy in a hot tub, only a few days into the Dec. 2009 cruise voyage. Although the young boy managed to escape after a few minutes, Stevenson momentarily fondled another child aboard the ship.

Had it not have been for Stevenson’s plea agreement, pleading guilty to <interstate travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct would have likely landed him in prison for a decade. Stevenson, who was booked into Allegheny County Jail, is expected to spend approximately four years in prison in connection with the cruise ship sexual assault case.

Reports noted that Stevenson is prescribed psychiatric drugs for an unspecified mental illness, which prosecutors seemed to take into account prior to offering him a plea bargain in the child-sex case. Stevenson is scheduled to appear in court for sentencing on Nov. 22.

According to U.S. Department of Justice statistics posted on the website for the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), 15 percent of sexual assault and rape victims have yet to even reach the age of 12. Overall, 44 percent of victims are under the age of 18, with 29 percent of the total accounting for individuals between the ages of 12 and 17.

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