Woman alleges rape on ship

Lipcon, Marguiles, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

By ERIKA BERAS
MiamiHerald.com

On a day when lawmakers in Washington heard stories about crimes on cruise ships, a Florida woman filed suit against Carnival claiming she was raped by a fellow passenger on a cruise ship in February.

The lawsuit by Morgan Black, 30, of Jacksonville, is the latest accusation against an industry plagued by complaints that crimes on the high seas often go unpunished.

Representing Black is Gloria Allred, a California-based lawyer known for high-profile crusades on behalf of crime victims, and Charles Lipcon, a Miami attorney who specializes in cruise litigation. Accompanied by Black, Allred held a news conference at a downtown Miami law office to publicize the suit.

“I am not the same person that I was before the cruise attack, and I will never be that person again,” said Black, reading a statement.

According to the suit, Black, a piano teacher and mother of three, departed Miami on Feb. 1 on a specialty cruise on the Carnival Victory, a Sixthman Music Cruise.

On Feb. 4, the last night of the cruise, Black was drugged and raped, the lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Miami said.

The woman said she told her story to the FBI but would not discuss whether charges have been filed.

The suit, alleging negligence, asserts Carnival and Sixthman should have made security cameras available in every public area.

In a statement, Carnival Cruise Lines said it hadn’t seen the suit and couldn’t comment on it.

However, it added: “We want to reinforce that the safety and well-being of our guests and crew is Carnival’s No. 1 priority.

“We maintain a high level of security through an onboard uniformed security force. Certified shipboard security officers work in tandem with Carnival’s shoreside security department, which is made up of many highly experienced former law enforcement professionals.”

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C. Thursday, a U.S. Senate subcommittee held a hearing on cruise-ship safety and potential steps for keeping Americans safe at sea.

It was the first hearing by a Senate panel, although others have been held by House committees.

Among those testifying was Kendall Carver, president of International Cruise Victims Association, an advocacy group he started after his daughter disappeared during a cruise almost three years ago.

“The meeting went well,” Carver said. “I was extremely pleased with it.”

Lipcon, who recently published a book on spotlighting unlawful incidents on cruise ships, said: “Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. It happens all too often.”

Advocates say the causes include a lack of government involvement, ambiguous jurisdictions, and corporate policies. Lipcon estimated he files about one lawsuit a week against a cruise line.