Early this Tuesday morning, at roughly 4:00AM, a muscular man struggled with and choked 52-year-old woman passenger aboard the Royal Princess – a vessel owned and operated by Princess Cruises, a major global cruise line –on one of the upper deck levels. According to the initial statements of other passengers, as well as security footage of the incident, the man subsequently pushed the woman over the railing. The woman fell to her death when she slammed into a lifeboat located on one of the lower levels of the vessel.
Crew members aboard the Royal Princess immediately reported the death to law enforcement authorities in Aruba, its next port-of-call. FBI investigators notified have been providing assistance. Law enforcement authorities and forensic teams have been investigating the death as a potential homicide.
As of this time, it is not clear what caused the man and the woman to be embroiled in a struggle with one another.
Though Princess Cruises has released an official statement of condolences to the family of the deceased passenger, and are cooperating with investigative authorities, the seeming lack of an effective and timely response by security personnel aboard the ship perturbs us. Had security personnel been patrolling that area of the ship where the incident took place — which was busy enough that other passengers observed the unfolding clash between the man and the woman — then the conflict could have been de-escalated and the passenger’s life might have been saved.
In the present circumstances, surviving family members of the deceased may have actionable claims against Princess Cruises for wrongful death.
Cruise Lines Must Not Create an Unreasonable Risk of Harm, and Must Provide Adequate Security to Protect from Third-Party Dangers
Many cruise passengers do not realize that crimes on the high seas are quite a bit more common than they think. Cruise ship rape, assault, and murder occur with alarming frequency; to the point ere the United States enacted legislation requiring that, cruise lines make regular reports of such statistics so that future protective legislation derives from comprehensive data.
There are a number of reasons as to why cruises tend to attract criminal activity: cruise ships are relatively isolated from land based law enforcement, passengers routinely consume excessive amount of alcohol, and typically, there is a lack of adequate security measures and personnel aboard cruise ships. All these factors contribute to increasing the exposure to risk of harm for the passengers and crew onboard.
Cruise lines must not heighten the risk of harm by overserving alcohol, for example, and must prevent harm by accounting for passengers who might indicate that they are a security risk. They must also make the best use of security equipment (i.e., manned CCTV systems, alarm system stations, etc.) and adequate personnel to ensure that passengers are safe throughout the ship.
In the present case, the Royal Princess has a CCTV system, but it appears that security personnel were either understaffed or improperly utilized. Though the incident occurred at a late hour (4:00AM), other passengers were aware of the fight. Therefore had there been security personnel present at the scene, they end result should have been avoidable. If on the other hand there were security personnel at the scene, it appears they either lacked proper training or failed to effectively interfere or de-escalate the situation.
Creating the risk of harm by overserving alcohol — and/or failing to provide adequate security to passengers — could expose Princess Cruises to significant civil liability for the woman’s death in the present case.
We Can Provide Comprehensive Legal Assistance to Those in Need
If you or a family member suffered harm while traveling on a cruise ship, then you may have a legitimate claim against the cruise line for damages — even if another passenger aboard the ship caused the harm. Cruise lines have numerous responsibilities, one of which is to maintain a reasonably safe environment for their passengers — this duty further extends to the provision of adequate security.
Here at Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A., our attorneys have over a century of combined trial experience litigating injury claims on behalf of passengers and family members who have suffered harmed while traveling aboard cruise ships, including situations involving an intentionally violent third party. Over the years, we have litigated thousands of cases and have obtained significant verdicts and settlements for our clients, helping them secure the justice they deserve.
Would you like to speak to a qualified maritime lawyer about your case? Contact Lipcon today to schedule an appointment. We look forward to assisting you.