The Florida maritime lawyers of Brais Brais & Rusak have been retained to represent a female minor passenger who was allegedly sexually assaulted and raped on board the Carnival Breeze on October 3, 2015. The incident occurred when the child left the cruise ship’s Club O2 teen lounge and upon heading to a nearby elevator was surrounded by five adult men who forced her into the elevator, down a ship’s hallway and into a cabin of one of the men. The men were able to target the child as their victim because Carnival failed to keep the unrelated men out of the Club O2 lounge earlier in the cruise. On at least one occasion the men were told to leave of the Club O2 lounge, but by then it was too late and they simply waited outside the Club O2 lounge until their unsuspecting victim left the teen club.
The Club O2 lounge is advertised as a dedicated lounge aboard Carnival ships for children ages 15 to 17 to “hang out and do stuff like watch movies, listed to music from this decade, play sports and video games, join karaoke jam sessions . . . maybe even have a pool party or two, all with other high schoolers ages of 15 to 17.” Carnival states on its website, that Club O2 is designed specifically for 15-17-year-olds, which means no kids and no adults. It is further described as a safe and comfortable environment for teen cruise passengers. Carnival notes that “as legal adults, 18-year-olds are not permitted to participate in or use the Club O2 facilities or any other Youth Program facilities.”
Based on the above description, parents, like our clients, reasonably believe that Carnival has in place measures to keep out persons not supposed to be in the Club O2 lounge. At the very least, parents believe that Carnival has a person at the door of the lounge confirming the ages of the guests attempting to enter the lounge and that they are there for legitimate purposes.
It is alleged in the Complaint that five men of legal age were able to enter the Club O2 lounge and it was not until they behaved inappropriately that they were removed from the lounge by security. Court papers claim that on the night in question, despite having been previously removed from the Club O2 lounge, the men were not monitored in any manner and were permitted to loiter outside the Club O2 lounge where they were able to pounce upon our minor client. After surrounding the victim and directing her inside the elevator, the men took her to a cabin and while there are alleged to have sexually assaulted her and one rape her.
The negligence claim is based upon Carnival not having: (a) appropriate security at the Club O2 door confirming the ages of the guests: (b) a scanning mechanism where guests can scan their sign and sail cards to confirm their identity and age, and identity of minor in the Club O2 lounge; and, (c) a host at the entrance of the lounge who can observe and report potential predators nearby the teen club’s entrance. Simply put, the Complaint alleges that Carnival does nothing to keep out ill-intentioned individuals seeking to identify, and thereafter, engage in relationships or “friendships” with minor children.
In contrast, Carnival does, however, have mechanisms to prevent guests from entering its spas, its hair salons, and many other locations where access involves an extra charge or upgrade. Additionally, guests’ sign and sail cards do identify the identity of Carnival guests to charge guests for whatever products or services guests use while on board Carnival ships.
Based upon Carnival’s actions, a likely and very plausible conclusion is that since the Club O2 lounge is not a “pay to enter” area of the ship such that it would generate additional revenue to Carnival, it does not merit Carnival’s added mechanisms and increased operating costs to prevent access thereto. This seems to be the case notwithstanding that the Club O2 lounge is an area frequented by minor children and where Carnival is aware of prior incidents of sexual violence have occurred and or been facilitated or the like.
For example, per other court pleadings, in March of2012, a 15-year-old minor was allegedly sexually assaulted by another minor passenger, while participating on a Club O2 scavenger hunt aboard the CARNIVAL ELATION due to inadequate supervision. In August of that same year, per written statements obtained from the related criminal case, it is evident that an adult passenger met a 15-year-old female at the Club O2 lounge on board the CARNIVAL SENSATION, and that is where he asked her to come to his cabin where he and two other male minor passengers would later rape her per the lawsuit filed in that cause. In both cases, the parties argued that Carnival was negligence for failing to provide adequate supervision and/or security for minor passengers aboard its vessels and while enrolled in a Carnival youth program.
To protect our client’s right to bring suit against Carnival within the one-year statute of limitations, our firm filed suit on behalf of our minor client both in the United States Southern District of Florida and in the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida in and for Miami-Dade County, Florida. Additionally, on behalf of our client, our firm successfully requested the federal court stay the federal case and allow the state court to decide whether the forum selection clause within the Carnival cruise ticket contract is binding upon a minor given that as applied to her it would result in the automatic loss of her Constitutional right to a jury trial.
We are honored to have the opportunity to help this family and this minor child in this difficult time and will be posting updates on this matter as it proceeds through litigation. In order to better serve the family, we ask that if anyone who has witnessed this event or knows of other situations where a teen was abducted near a Carnival cruise ship’s lounge to please contact our firm.