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Houston Personal Injury Lawyer > Blog > Personal Injury > What Happens When Someone is Assaulted Aboard a Cruise Ship?

What Happens When Someone is Assaulted Aboard a Cruise Ship?


It happens more often than you would think. Children are often the most likely targets. A recent case involving a teenaged boy highlights a small cross-section of the issue. The man who committed the assault was arrested after the boy reported the assault to ship security who then notified the authorities in Bermuda. He has since pleaded guilty to the crime in federal court.

Yet many cases are not so cut and dry. Since crimes committed on cruise ships happen on the high seas, maritime law holds that the laws of whichever country’s flag the ship sails under should apply. Yet more often than not, these ships fail to fly under any flag in order to exploit the jurisdictional liability and offer themselves a layer of protection in civil cases. A recent case involving yet another sexual assault highlighted some of the problems here. A Spanish judge released a man who had been accused of sexual assault because the judge simply had no jurisdiction to hear the case.

17-Year-Old Raped by Another Passenger 

In this case, a 17-year-old British girl was forced into a cabin by an Italian attacker where she was raped. After reporting the crime to ship security, the 18-year-old attacker was detained, but allowed to walk free on a technicality: The judge had no authority to hear the case because it occurred on international waters. The ship, which is registered in Panama, should have jurisdiction over the assault. However, many such countries lack the resources to investigate and prosecute such claims and many won’t bother if it doesn’t involve one of their citizens.

However, part of the issue, in this case, is Spain’s own laws involving hearing cases that don’t involve Spanish citizens. In 2009, Spain passed a law restricting their jurisdiction and preventing them from hearing cases involving non-citizens. This, however, leaves little recourse for tourists who go on cruises for vacation.

Can the Girl Sue the Cruise Line? 

In this case, probably not. It’s assumed when someone is attacked on another’s property that the individual who owns, manages, or otherwise controls the property has a duty of care to keep them safe. But this duty of care only goes so far. If it had been a cruise ship employee who had attacked the girl, she would be able to sue on the basis of negligent hiring or failing to do a background check. Since the boy was another guest, it becomes much more difficult to prove that the cruise line owed her a duty of care.

This is because in negligent security cases, the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show that the attack was foreseeable. Almost all premises liability rests on this burden. If the cruise ship can reasonably claim that the attack was not foreseeable, the girl would have no recourse to sue even if she were a U.S. citizen.

Talk to a Houston, TX Personal Injury and Intentional Torts Attorney 

If you’ve been injured by a negligent or malicious party, the Houston personal injury attorneys at Livingston & Flowers, PLLC can help you recover damages related to your injuries. Give us a call or talk to us online to set up a free consultation today.


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