The most common crime on a cruise ship is sexual assault. Predators will exploit gaps in the law that exist on the high seas to find victims. Many of those who are victimized on cruise ships are children. If the perpetrator lives in the United States, they can be charged under U.S. law. But sometimes, sexual offenders slip through the cracks and it is very difficult to find a court that will try them.
Victims of sexual assault, however, can sue the cruise line for damages. Below, we’ll discuss how cruise ship negligence can lead to sexual violence.
Premises Liability Tort
Essentially, when a sexual assault victim sues a cruise line for an attack that occurred on their cruise ship, they are claiming that the cruise line provided an insufficient amount of security to protect their guests. As it happens, many of these attacks involve cruise line employees. When a cruise line employee attacks a cruise ship passenger, negligence is very easy to prove. Under U.S. law, all employers are responsible for the conduct of their employees. In other words, the cruise ship would be vicariously liable for the attack. This happens more often than you would think.
The underlying thread in premises liability torts is the question of foreseeability. Let’s take, for instance, a more common scenario. A person goes into Walmart where they slip and fall. This is also a premises liability tort. The plaintiff must be able to prove that Walmart either knew or should have known about the potential danger. In these cases, the plaintiff must be able to show negligence.
When violence happens on a cruise ship, and it’s committed by an employee, the plaintiff’s attorney need only establish that the employee did, in fact, assault the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s attorney can then attempt to further allege negligent hiring or even gross negligence if they failed to conduct a background check on the employee before hiring him. In both of these instances, the question of foreseeability is satisfied. The cruise line either knew that the employee was dangerous or they should have known that the employee was dangerous.
What Happens to Sexual Assault Victims Aboard Cruise Ships
Cruise ships don’t have police officers working them. Instead, they have private security companies that foremost represent the interests of the cruise line. In these cases, private security is tasked with conducting the investigation. Immediately, the victim is put in an adversarial situation with security personnel who are protecting the interests of their employer.
In some cases, victims have been asked to remove their clothing, interrogated, or otherwise subjected to situations that further their degradation. In these cases, plaintiff’s attorneys can sue for how the assault victim was treated by cruise line personnel even when they weren’t attacked by a staff member.