Cruise Ship Rape – Arbitration in Bermuda? A Jury Trial in Miami? Or Both?

In the past month, I have written about the progression of federal court cases which have chipped away at the rights of foreign crewmembers, who are the backbone of the U.S. based cruise industry. The cases of Lindo v. NCL (Bahamas) Ltd. and Henriquez v. NCL showed that the Eleventh Circuit would not hesitate to affirm the dismissal of the claims filed on behalf of NCL crewmembers in the U.S. courts here in Miami, leaving the seriously injured seamen to seek compensation in foreign countries applying foreign law. On Friday, the Eleventh Circuit decided the case of Jane Doe v. Princess Cruises. The Court addressed the issue whether a Princess crewmember raped on the M/S Star Princess cruise ship would be sent from the U.S. to face uncertain justice before an arbitrator in a country selected by the cruise line, or whether she could try her case here in Miami before a jury. According to the opinion which you can read here, the facts allegedly "tell a story of a woman, working for Princess Cruise Lines on one of its ships, who was drugged by other employees, raped and physically injured while she was unconscious, and when she reported to officials of the cruise line what had happened to her they treated her with indifference and even hostility, failed to provide her with proper medical treatment on board, and interfered with her attempts to obtain counseling and medical treatment ashore." We represent Jane Doe (whose name is being protected to protect her confidentiality). Princess Cruises is represented by Miami cruise defense lawyer Jeffrey Maltzman. The complaint that we filed on her behalf alleged ten (10) causes of action: As described by the Eleventh Circuit, the ten claims are: (1) a "Jones Act negligence" claim, alleging that Princess Cruise Lines breached its "duty to provide a safe place to work such that [Doe] could perform the job obligations in a reasonably safe manner and live aboard the vessel free from sexual violence and/or sexual harassment"; (2) an unseaworthiness claim, alleging that the cruise line breached its "non-delegable duty to provide [Doe] with a seaworthy vessel upon which to work and live free from sexual battery and/or sexual harassment"; (3) a Jones Act claim, alleging that the cruise line breached its duty under that act to provide Doe with prompt, adequate, and complete medical treatment for "injuries sustained while in the service of the vessel"; (4) a maintenance and cure claim, alleging that the cruise line "purposefully refused to arrange for and pay [for] timely and complete medical cure" despite its obligation to do so under "the General Maritime Law"; (5) a Seaman's Wage Act claim that the cruise line breached its "duty to timely pay all of [Doe's] wages as a seaman;" (6) a false imprisonment claim, alleging that the cruise line had "purposefully and intentionally restrained [Doe] against her will on the cruise ship and did not permit her to leave the cruise ship to go ashore for medical treatment" in Seattle; (7) an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, alleging "separate and independent torts committed by" the cruise line, its agents, and its employees related to Doe's rape and the way that they handled the situation and treated her after learning of the rape; (8) a spoliation of evidence claim, alleging that the cruise line breached its duty to preserve evidence after one of its crew members sexually assaulted and battered Doe; (9) an invasion of privacy claim, alleging that the cruise line, though its agents, breached its duty to protect Doe's confidentiality and privacy as a rape victim by repeatedly disclosing her real name in an effort to intimidate and embarrass her; and (10) a fraudulent misrepresentation claim, alleging that officers of the cruise line who were on the ship repeatedly and falsely told Doe after she had been drugged and raped that she could not disembark the ship to obtain medical treatment and counseling by doctors of her own choosing. The Court held that the first five causes of action fall within the language of the arbitration agreement. The trial court will then consider the cases of Lindo, Henriquez and Thomas to determine whether these first five causes of action should be sent to Bermuda to be arbitrated and what law should apply. However, the Court held that the last five causes of action, which involved post-rape conduct alleged against the cruise line, did not arise of of Jane Doe's employment and therefore are not subject to arbitration. The last five legal theories alleged against the cruise line will be heading toward a jury trial here in Miami. This case should be of continuing interest to maritime lawyers representing crewmembers working for cruise lines which insert arbitration agreements in their employment contracts. The case was featured today in the Daily Business Review. Maritime lawyer Brett Rivkind also wrote an excellent blog about the rape case and the issue of arbitration entitled: "Appeals Court Addresses Arbitration Clause Involving Claim by Crewmember for Sexual Assault." Photo credit: Star Princess Cruise Ship, Seattle Washington – Jim Walker

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2 Responses to Cruise Ship Rape – Arbitration in Bermuda? A Jury Trial in Miami? Or Both?

  1. However, the Court held that the last five causes of action, which involved post-rape conduct alleged against the cruise line, did not arise of of Jane Doe’s employment and therefore are not subject to arbitration.

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