Articles Posted in Sexual Crimes/Assault

Sexual Assaults on Cruise Ships Increase from Last Year

For a number of years, many have argued that cruise lines should be subjected to more stringent requirements for reporting crimes that happen both on board and in the numerous destinations these ships visit. Cruise ship injury attorneys have argued that cruise lines should make passenger safety a top priority and that they should thoroughly explain the measures they are taking to maintain and improve passenger welfare. Unfortunately, a number of cruise passengers are raped, or sexually assaulted every year. In the past, many of these incidents may not have been reported or are under reported by the cruise lines.  A major factor that plays in to the prevalence of these terrible crimes is because cruise ships provide inadequate safety and security measures on their ships. Some cruise ships do not even have security cameras in common areas making a cruise ship an easy target for predators.

Without a clear understanding of the incidents that occur on board, cruise lines often  attempt to dodge legal liability for failing to remedy unsafe conditions. For example, a crew member commits a rape or sexual assault, the cruise line is strictly liable under federal maritime law. In order to avoid legal liability cruise line operators often send the employee back to their place of origin. If a rape or sexual assault is committed by a passenger, then the victim must establish that the cruise line operator failed to act with reasonable care under the circumstances.

100_0677Though they do not often make the news, crimes on cruise ships do happen. Sometimes said crimes are serious and life-altering, such as sexual assault. Sexual assaults are, unfortunately, not uncommon aboard cruise ships. Recently, 25-year-old Karen Seechurn pleaded guilty to unlawfully entering the cruise ship cabin of a sleeping passenger and sexually assaulting her. In brief, Seechurn entered the victim’s cabin, groped her and threatened to burn the ship down if she told anyone of the incident. The cruise ship was reported as the Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas.

Again, sexual assaults aboard cruise ships are not uncommon. In 2014, alone, three of the leading cruise lines, Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian reported 18 cases of sexual assaults and 27 cases of rape against cruise ship passengers.    

Please note that cruise ships do not have law enforcement officials onboard. Yet, you are not without security personnel. Cruise ships employ other forms of security personnel who are typically trained to maintain the safety on cruise ships and to protect evidence of a crime. If you a rape victim of such an offense, it is critical that you report the incident to the FBI as soon as you reasonably can. Ask your cruise line to allow you to contact the FBI. Cruise lines are required to allow passengers to speak to the FBI upon request. Once reported, the FBI will investigate the incident. Of course, the cruise line will want to give the FBI their side of the story. Once your cruise ship has ported, you should visit the nearest rape treatment center.       

man and dog on balconySexual assaults often occur during cruise ship voyages. Just recently, the Royal Bahamas Police Force took a United States citizen into police custody in connection with an alleged sexual assault incident. Both the suspect and the victim were passengers of a cruise ship. This incident was reported shortly after 9:00 a.m. when the female victim informed Bahamian police that she was sexually assaulted. The suspect was arrested and taken into police custody. Given that these crimes are not rare, it is important that victims have certain rights and protections on board cruise ships for when they are, or may have been, victimized. This article will touch on the victim rights expounded in the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010.

If you or a loved one is a victim of a crime at sea, it is important that an experienced maritime lawyer is retained for the case. Cruise ship companies have their own lawyers who work for them following an incident and so should you. The Miami maritime lawyers at Gerson and Schwartz, PA provide high quality legal representation. For more information call us toll free at 1-877-475-2905 or contact us online.

Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act of 2010

OCEAN BUOY 2Recently, Brock Christian Hammerstein, 25 years of age, was one of two individuals accused of sexually assaulting a minor on a Dolphin cruise. Once said cruise ship ported, the victim visited a local hospital to report that she was sexually battered. At the time of the assault, the victim and her family were visiting Destin, Florida, and went on one of the Sunset Cruises. While on the cruise, an employee, 22 years of age, served her wine without first requesting her identification.  On the completion of the cruise, said employee invited her back onto the boat. The employee and Hammerstein then took her to the ship’s lower level where they allegedly sexually battered her.  The two men maintain that the victim said she was 24 years of age and that she consented to the sex.     

If you or a loved one is a victim of a crime, it is imperative that you hire an experienced attorney. The Miami crime victim lawyers at Gerson and Schwartz, PA are here for you. We are available at 1-877-475-2905 and/or at info@gslawusa.com.

Sexual Assault on Cruise Ships

Shower headSexual assaults on cruises are, unfortunately, not an uncommon occurrence. The facts are quite scary. One major cruise line recently indicated that there were 173 sexual assaults or rapes reported on their ships during a five-year period. To make matters worse, none of these 173 reports were ever prosecuted. A different major cruise line reported that there are two rapes or sexual assaults per month on each of its cruise ships. Just recently, off the coast of Florida, a cruise line’s steward was charged with sexually assaulting a teenage boy in a cruise ship shower. The steward was charged with lewd and lascivious molestation and sexual battery of a person less than 16 years of age. Investigators maintain that the steward saw the young boy in a ship sauna. The two started talking as they used the facility. To get away from the steward, the boy left the sauna and went to the showers; yet, the steward followed and engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct. 

The Lawsuit

If you wish to file a lawsuit against a cruise line, there are some important rules that you must be aware of. For one, cruise ship tickets that you initially purchase normally have a “forum selection clause” and a “choice of law clause.” These clauses are often printed on the back of the ticket in small font. These clauses specifically indicate in which state the passenger may sue the cruise line, as well as the law that will apply in his or her case. You should strictly adhere to the rules listed on your ticket. Failure to do so may ultimately have your case dismissed. If the cruise ticket has you filing the case in Florida, with Florida law applying, the following rules of law may apply to your situation.       

1c919lp8While swarms of people embark on cruise ships annually, crimes committed upon them seem to run rampant. What is sad is that many individuals who commit crimes aboard cruise ships actually get away with their crimes. It is a mess. What makes it even messier is the existence of the jurisdiction issue. A congressional hearing in 2007 revealed that in the past three years, 28 people have disappeared while on cruise ships. Of these, only three have been found! There have been 200 reported cases of assault or sexual misconduct aboard cruise ships. There have been four cases reported of grand theft. True, this may not appear to be a huge number of incidents.  Yet, it is a large number when you take into consideration the several nuances of enforcing the law at sea. Most of these cases have not been sufficiently investigated and few have even been solved.

If you are a victim of crime or injury at sea, to best safeguard your interests, it is imperative that you hire an attorney for your case. The experienced Miami maritime lawyers at Gerson and Schwartz PA are here for you. We have the experience and skill needed to take on your case.  Our attorneys are experienced in filing claims against all major cruise lines. We know how to aggressively handle maritime lawsuits. We will fight hard to enforce your legal rights and we will not hesitate to bring your case to trial if a fair settlement offer is not made.

Jurisdiction at Sea

file7241281863954Instances of rape, sexual assault, and other sex crimes occur frequently on cruise ships. Just last year a cruise ship employee used a master key to enter the room of a female passenger. He hid on the room’s balcony until she returned. On her return to the room, she went to bed and was awakened by the intruder. The crewmember began choking her. The passenger fought for her life in every way she could by biting him and stabbing him with a corkscrew. The passenger was sexually assaulted, punched, and beaten with a laptop and a curling iron. She incurred brain injuries, fractures to her skull, spine, and face, and numerous bite marks. The crewmember even tried to snap the passenger’s neck. The crewmember tried to kill her. He became nervous when other passengers began knocking on the door and jumped off the balcony to the lower level in hopes of getting away. He was eventually caught.

Maritime law holds cruise lines strictly liable for the intentional, wrongful, and criminal acts of their employees. This includes rape and sexual assault. Rules of law governing conduct on cruise ships can be complex. To add to the complexities, cruise ships are governed by federal law, not state law, when the cruise ship is more than three nautical miles out at sea. If you or a loved one is a victim of a crime on a cruise ship, it is important that you seek the representation of an experienced maritime law attorney. The Miami, Florida maritime lawyers at Gerson and Schwartz PA have experience filing claims against all the major cruise lines.

The Cruise Ship Vessel Security Act of 2010

450894208_f1a963aa17Last December, a Honduran man was arrested after allegedly fondling an 11-year-old girl aboard the Disney Magic cruise ship. The ship disembarked from Port Miami for a weekend long cruise. While aboard the ship, the girl told her parents that the man, 31-year-old Palma Ortega, had fondled her three times. If you or someone you love was the victim of sexual assault on a cruise ship, consider contacting a Miami Cruise Ship Sexual Assault Attorney.

Miami-Dade police are charging Ortega with three counts of lewd and lascivious molestation of a minor, and he is being held without bond. Upon detention, Ortega confessed to the crime. In the state of Florida, the lewd or lascivious molestation of a child under 12 is a felony punishable by 25 years to life in prison. The man is also on an immigration hold and may be subject to deportation.

It is not clear yet whether or not Ortega was a crewmember of the Disney cruise line, but regardless, the cruise ship company does not have the best track record of responding to sexual assaults by their crew members. In 2013, a similar event took place, where an 11-year-old girl was groped by a dining room employee on the Disney Dream cruise ship while the ship was docked at Port Canaveral. Local police could not arrest the man because Disney did not report the assault until the next day. Instead of receiving justice, the man was sent back to his home country of India.

DSC06923Recently, a passenger sued Carnival Cruise ship on account of suffering a sexual assault by an unidentified individual while using the ladies’ restroom in the ship and alleged that, in spite of reporting the incident to the support staff on the same day, no active measure was taken by the cruise ship crew or personnel. Our team of Miami cruise ship lawyers are not surprised. This brings to light the fact that sexual assaults on cruise ships are not uncommon at all.

What to Do if You are Sexually Assaulted on a Cruise Ship

If you and/or the perpetrator of a sexual assault is an American national and the ship sails from or to a U.S. port, then the FBI will have jurisdiction over the case. In other circumstances, it is more complicated to determine which agency—or even which country—has jurisdiction. The location of the vessel, the nationality of the perpetrator or victim, ownership of the vessel, the points of embarkation and debarkation, and the country in which the vessel is flagged may all have an effect on jurisdiction.

A lawsuit based in maritime has been filed in the brutal beating of a cruise passenger that we mentioned on our blog a few weeks ago. With the filing of the lawsuit, the victim’s attorney has revealed the carelessness of the cruise line that contributed to the vicious attack. Our Florida maritime law firm is monitoring the case closely.

The Horrific Attack

DSCF6491The case stems from a  Holland America cruise ship passenger was brutally beaten by a Holland America employee, who apparently had a master key and used it to gain entry into the victim’s cabin. The employee tried to strangle the woman with a phone cord, smashed her with a laptop and other blunt objects, and even tried to throw her overboard. She was also sexually assaulted. At one point, her oxygen supply was completely cut off from the choking. The entire attack lasted about an hour, until the victim managed to escape the cabin into the hallway.

badges