Cruise Company Sued for $25,000,000
The SeaDream Yacht Club has been sued for $25,000,000 after a passenger claims that she was raped by a bartender while aboard the yacht, SeaDream 1. SeaDream Yacht Club offers yachting voyages throughout the Mediterranean and Caribbean.
The Plaintiff brings a claim of negligence against the SeaDream Yacht Club. Negligence is the failure to do something which a reasonable person would do (an act), or doing something that reasonable person would not do (a failure to act) that results in a foreseeable harm to someone. There are four elements to a claim of negligence: a legal duty owed to someone, a breach of that duty by someone through an act or failure to act, the negligent act or failure to act must have resulted in injuries, and finally that damages can awarded to compensate for the injuries.
The Plaintiff claims that, as a paying passenger, the SeaDream Yacht Club owed her a legal duty to keep her safe while aboard the SeaDream 1. According to the Plaintiff’s complaint, it was foreseeable that the SeaDream Yacht Club’s acts or failures to act would result in the rape. The Plaintiff alleges a lack of adequate security aboard the yacht, a lack of adequate supervision of crew members, a failure to perform a background check on the bartender and a failure to create or enforce policies and procedures that would prevent sexual assault by crew members, among others. The Plaintiff uses these alleged factors to show that the SeaDream Yacht Club knew or should have known that a sexual assault or rape was likely to occur aboard the SeaDream 1 and also that it breached its duty to keep the Plaintiff safe while aboard the yacht.
As a result of the incident, the Plaintiff alleges physical injuries and mental anguish which resulted in medical bills, loss of wages and future damages including diminished work capacity.
The SeaDream Yacht Club does not have to successfully defend itself on each element of negligence, but only prove that one of the elements is not present. In this case, the defendant will likely argue that the rape was not foreseeable because there was no way for it to know that rape or sexual assault could occur as a result the alleged factors listed by the Plaintiff. The SeaDream Yacht Club could also argue that it did not have a duty to protect the Plaintiff from a rape or sexual assault while aboard one of its vessels, and that its duties towards passengers extend only to keeping them safe from the foreseeable harms that are associated with yachting such as falling overboard.
The Plaintiff also brings a claim against the alleged assailant. The Plaintiff claims negligence against the bartender and that the rape and sexual assault were intentional torts. While rape and sexual assault is a criminal act, they can be alleged in a civil context by a Plaintiff who seeks compensation costs arising out of the injuries that were caused by the negligence.
Furthermore, the Plaintiff claims that the SeaDream Yacht Club is vicariously liable for the bartender’s alleged actions. Vicarious liability holds an employer to be responsible for the acts or omissions of an employee during in the course of the employee’s employment. Generally, employers are responsible for the negligent acts of their employees. However, if the assailant was an independent contractor and not an employee, the SeaDream Yacht Club could argue that it was not responsible for the assailant’s actions. The Plaintiff alleges that the bartender was an employee because he was hired, retained and/or employed by the SeaDream Yacht Club. Factors that can determine whether someone is an employee or independent contractor include level of responsibility, authority to delegate tasks and whether or not an agent relationship existed.
If an employer-employee relationship is found to exist between the Club and the bartender, the SeaDream Yacht Club can argue that employers are typically not held liable for the intentional torts of their employees.