A Vermont family who says their 3-year-old daughter was molested by another child while attending the youth club aboard a Disney Cruise last year is suing the cruise line for $20 million, according to the suit filed Friday in the federal court in Orlando.
Attorney Michael Winkleman, of the Miami-Based maritime law firm Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman said Friday that the incident was captured on surveillance video and clearly shows a child — who is believed to be around 10 years old — assaulting the 3 year old.
“This is a parent’s worst nightmare,” Winkleman said. “Any parent would reasonably think it was safe to leave their child in the care of Disney workers, but for an assault like this to occur when Disney crew members are supposed to be taking care of the child is unthinkable.”
The 18-page complaint, filed in the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division, names Magical Cruise Company, which operates Disney Cruise Line. The Vermont family is listed as John and Jane Doe.
Disney said in a statement that the “lawsuit is wholly without merit.”
“The plaintiffs’ first allegations were reported to the FBI, and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office investigated them and determined them to be unfounded,” the company said. “The plaintiffs have now come back with a different story, which is equally unfounded, that another young female child acted inappropriately with their child. We will vigorously defend this case in court.”
According to the complaint, the parents enrolled their 3-year-old daughter — identified as R.V. — in the Oceaneer Youth Activities Club (“Youth Club”) at about 5:40 p.m. Jan. 9. The club allows children from age 3 to 12.
Winkleman said the toddler was in the Lab Media Lounge with several other children of all ages when she can be seen with the older child, who was dressed as Princess Leia at the time.
In a summary of the case, Winkleman said the CCTV video showed “Princess Leia’s right arm is completely wrapped around the smaller child, pinning her down.”
“Between 6:25 p.m. and 6:28 p.m., Princess Leia is plainly seen on CCTV sexually abusing the minor child when she places her hand between the minor’s leg and down to her [private parts.]”
Winkleman said that despite two crew members entering the lab, no one intervened.
“The victim was essentially trapped for roughly 20 minutes while she was sexually assaulted, while she was under the direct ‘supervision’ of Disney employees whose singular job is to oversee these children,” he said.
Soon after the incident, the child began wetting her bed and showing other signs of abuse. Winkleman said that’s when law enforcement tracked down the video.
“The victim’s parents filed this case in order to seek justice and accountability and to raise awareness about the hidden dangers of sexual assaults on cruise ships,” Winkleman said.