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
The 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.
The victim asked others to relay to her family that she loved them, certain she would not survive her injuries. Her body was racked with bruises and gashes, she had bites on her hands, her teeth shifted from the force of the blows, and she sustained significant traumatic brain injuries.
Cruise Line Negligence v. Strict Liability
It is easy to look at this kind of brutality and ask what a cruise line could do to prevent a maniac employee from unexpectedly going on a rampage. Many people believe that a cruise line (or even a land-based business) should not be responsible for criminal violence committed by its employees. However, under general maritime law, cruise ship companies are strictly liable for criminal acts committed by their employees. That means that cruise ship accident victims do not need to establish principles of negligence such as notice, and breach of a legal duty in order to succeed. If a criminal act such as a rape, sexual assault or battery is committed by an employee of the cruise line, the ship is responsible.
But the lawsuit is explaining how a cruise ship’s carelessness can play a large hand in allowing these kinds of incidents to occur.
In this case, the victim’s attorney still notes that it was careless and could be gross negligence, to allow a lower-level employee to have a master key that allows them to gain access to any cabin at any time. Gross negligence could pave the way for punitive damages.
When neighboring passengers who heard the screams for help called 911, their calls were not routed to security. Instead, they were routed to the front desk, which then decided whether the calls warranted getting security involved. As it turns out, the front desk staff on duty classified the calls as “medium priority,” thus leading to security not being called to the scene in a timely manner. A broken toilet the day beforehand had been classified as “high priority.”
When help did arrive, 45 minutes later, it wasn’t even security—it was a front desk employee. That employee didn’t even have a master key, the way the employee who beat the passenger did, thus preventing any kind of immediate response.
The ship also had only one roving security officer, despite there being 3,000 passengers.
Cruise lines seem to be lack basic fundamental principles of passenger safety and security procedures. Even though cruise ship companies represent that the cruise line offers the same level of safety and security as on land based environments – this is not the case. People shouldn’t assume that the same safety assurances and responsiveness they have on land will apply when they are at sea.
If you are injured while a passenger on a cruise ship, don’t wait to get help. Talk to a maritime and cruise ship injury attorneys at Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. today for a free consultation about your injuries.