JANE DOE, v ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES LTD., MEUGIN FREDERICKS,

Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A

December 8, 2015

IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE 11TH
JUDICIAL CIRCUIT IN AND FOR
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA
GENERAL JURISDICTION DIVISION
CASE NO.

JANE DOE,

Plaintiff,

v.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES LTD.,

MEUGIN FREDERICKS,

Defendants.

___________________________________/

COMPLAINT AND DEMAND FOR TRIAL BY JURY

GENERAL ALLEGATIONS

Plaintiff sues Defendants and alleges:

  1. This is an action for damages in excess of $15,000, exclusive of costs and attorney’s fees.
  2. This maritime case involves a female ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES LTD. (hereinafter “RCCL”) crew member who on November 10, 2013 was sexually assaulted on the M/S Mariner of the Seas by a male RCCL staff member while she was asleep in her cabin.
  3. “JANE DOE” is a pseudonym used to protect Plaintiff’s confidentiality and to prevent Plaintiff from experiencing additional embarrassment.
  4. JANE DOE is over twenty-one years old, and is a citizen of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.
  5. Defendant, RCCL, is an entity incorporated under the laws of Liberia having its principal place of business in Miami, Florida.
  6. Defendant MEUGIN FREDERICKS is a citizen of a foreign state.
  7. Defendants RCCL, and MEUGIN FREDERICKS, at all times material hereto, personally or through an agent;
  8. Operated, conducted, engaged in or carried on a business venture in this state and/or county or had an office or agency in this state and/or county;
  9. Were engaged in substantial activity within this state;
  10. Operated vessels in the waters of this state;
  11. Committed one or more of the acts stated in Florida Statutes, Sections 48.081, 48.181 or 48.193;
  12. The acts of Defendants set out in this Complaint occurred in whole or in part in this county and/or state.
  13. Defendants RCCL, and MEUGIN FREDERICKS are subject to the jurisdiction of the courts of this state.
  14. At all times material hereto, Defendant RCCL owned, operated, managed, maintained and/or controlled the vessel M/S Mariner of the Seas. This vessel was registered in a flag of convenience country.
  15. At all times material hereto, MEUGIN FREDERICKS was an agent of the ship owner and/or ship operator.
  16. At all times material hereto, the Plaintiff was a seafarer who worked and lived on board Defendant’s vessel, M/S Mariner of the Seas.

DEFENDANT RCCL’s Legal Duties Owed to JANE DOE

  1. At all times material hereto, RCCL owned, operated, managed, maintained and/or controlled the vessel M/S Mariner of the Seas, and employed and controlled the crew members on the cruise ship.
  2. At all times material hereto, RCCL employed JANE DOE to serve as a seaman, as defined by the General Maritime Law and 46 U.S.C. 30104, (commonly known as the Jones Act), aboard the M/S Mariner of the Seas.
  3. Pursuant to the Jones Act, RCCL owed JANE DOE the duty of providing a reasonably safe place to work and live on the cruise ship.
  4. Pursuant to the Jones Act and General Maritime Law, RCCL owed JANE DOE the non-delegable duty to arrange, prove and pay for prompt, adequate and complete medical care and treatment and psychological and psychiatric counseling for illnesses and/or injuries that JANE DOE may experience while in service to the vessel.
  5. Pursuant to the Jones Act and General Maritime Law, RCCL owed JANE DOE the non-delegable duty to provide timely and complete maintenance and cure for illnesses or injuries that JANE DOE may experience while in service to the vessel.
  6. RCCL’s duty to provide shipboard medical treatment and timely and complete maintenance and cure exists irrespective of the legal fault of RCCL. The duty of the ship owners to provide maintenance and cure is an ancient right in the United States and has existed for almost 200 years and requires cruise lines like RCCL to provide all necessary living expenses, sick wages, and medical care, therapy and treatment until the crew member reaches maximum medical cure as defined by a doctor.
  7. Pursuant to the Jones Act and the General Maritime Law, RCCL owed JANE DOE the duty to pay seaman’s wages in a timely and complete manner and is liable for penalties and damages in the event that such wages are not paid timely or completely.

Facts Regarding RCCL’s Knowledge Regarding the Prevalence of Ship Rapes and RCCL’s Failure to Provide a Reasonably Safe Environment for Crew Members on its Cruise Ships

  1. Over the course of many years preceding the rape of JANE DOE on RCCL’s cruise ship, there have been many incidents of sexual harassment and sexual battery (rape), and other crimes committed against female crew members, as well as female passengers, on cruise ships with which RCCL are intimately familiar. RCCL has been involved in numerous sexual assault cases, including rapes, against passengers and crew members on RCCL ships.
  2. RCCL is also on notice of shipboard rapes given the highly publicized rapes and reports of rapes in the cruise industry. From January 2006 to the current date, there have been numerous Congressional hearings in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the U.S. Senate on issues of cruise ship crimes, including rape of women. These hearings have addressed the high incidence of sexual assaults and rapes on cruise ships. A cruise victims organization called the International Cruise Victims Organization has attended and been instrumental in organizing these hearings and has alerted the U.S. public and legislators of the danger of cruise ship rapes. These hearings and the testimony of rape victims and the stories of ICV members were highly publicized in newspapers, television, cable news, radio and the internet. Representatives and agents of RCCL attended and/or participated and/or were otherwise aware the cruise crimes hearings. RCCL carefully monitored these hearings, which included testimony and submissions by victims sailing on cruses ships operated by RCCL.
  3. The frequent sexual crimes and incidents of violence against women on cruise ships are due to an inadequate number of experienced and properly trained security guards; the lack of adequately positioned and monitored closed circuit television cameras (“CCTV”) in and around hallways and cabins; poor training, instruction and supervision of the crew members; shipboard policies that allow for male staff members to sleep in female crew cabins; and a shipboard culture where subordinate female crew members are afraid to report abusive behavior. Often, the female crew member’s complaints are ignored, or the complaining crew member is terminated from her employment, or the employment of both the victim and the assailant is terminated.
  4. RCCL was on notice of the problem with female crew members and passengers being sexually harassed and assaulted on its cruise ships, but refused to take reasonable steps to protect its female crew members on its cruise ships.
  5. As a result of RCCL’s negligence and/or intentional decision to not implement changes in its training and security protocols, RCCL’s cruise ships, including the M/S Mariner of the Seas, present an unreasonable danger to unsuspecting women like JANE DOE.

First Incident

  1. On or about November 10, 2013, the Plaintiff was a victim of sexual assault at the hands of a RCCL employee, Defendant MEUGIN FREDERICKS, onboard Defendant RCCL’s vessel, M/S Mariner of the Seas.
  2. On or about the early morning of November 10, 2013, after attending a RCCL employee’s birthday party, Plaintiff and her friend walked back to Plaintiff’s cabin. Upon entering the room, Plaintiff witnessed her roommate, whom is also a RCCL employee, having sexual relations with the Defendant MEUGIN FREDERICKS. Plaintiff left the room and returned ten minutes later to find her roommate and the Defendant MEUGIN FREDERICKS asleep.
  3. Plaintiff subsequently got into her bed and fell asleep. The next thing the Plaintiff remembers is being awoken by the Defendant’s hand wrapped around her throat and his other hand ripping off her bra. The Defendant then proceeded to sexually assault the Plaintiff and perform forced digital penetration.

Second Incident

  1. After notifying the Chief of Security of the sexual assault, Plaintiff went to the ship’s medical center and had a rape kit performed. The doctor on duty at the time was a male doctor by the name of Jonathan Pinzon.
  2. Prior to having the rape kit performed, the Doctor opined that the Plaintiff did not need a rape kit because there was no penis/vagina penetration. He also opined that the Plaintiff did not need a psychologist and/or counseling because she “looked fine.” The Plaintiff reiterated her request for a rape kit to be performed.
  3. Prior to the rape kit, the Plaintiff informed the Doctor that she wanted the female nurses to perform the vaginal exam, however, she was comfortable with the male Doctor leading the rest of the exams. When it came time for the vaginal exam, the Doctor disregarded the Plaintiff’s wishes and performed the exam himself. After performing the vaginal exam, Dr. Pinzon told the Plaintiff that she now owed him lunch.

Third Incident

  1. The following day, Plaintiff was suffering physical symptoms due to the trauma of the sexual assault. After reporting these symptoms to the Medical Center, she was forced to be confined in the same room where she was assaulted. RCCL kept the Plaintiff in her room for forty-eight hours straight before she got off the vessel.
  2. Following the sexual assault, RCCL failed to provide the Plaintiff with adequate and appropriate therapy, counseling, medicine, or treatment with therapists, counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists. Plaintiff was forced to seek treatment on her own, to which RCCL has not paid for or reimbursed the Plaintiff.
  3. After the sexual assault occurred, Plaintiff was bullied, harassed and physically threatened by various RCCL crew members. Plaintiff reported this treatment to the Human Resources manager aboard the vessel to which the manager responded that there was nothing that could be done. Due to the verbal abuse, Plaintiff was forced to leave the vessel.

COUNT I

NEGLIGENCE AGAINST DEFENDANT RCCL

FOR THE SEXUAL ASSAULT OF THE PLAINTIFF

Plaintiff realleges, incorporates by reference and adopts paragraphs 1 through 32 as though they were originally alleged herein.

  1. This cause of action is brought against RCCL for its own negligent practices, which allowed MEUGIN FREDERICKS to sexually assault the Plaintiff on November 10, 2013.
  2. At all times material, RCCL owed the Plaintiff a duty to exercise reasonable and ordinary care to keep and maintain the premises in which the Plaintiff lived and worked (i.e. M/S Mariner of the Seas) in a safe condition.
  3. RCCL breached its duty of reasonable care and the Plaintiff’s injuries are due to the fault and Negligence of RCCL as follows:
  4. Failing to provide a reasonable number of experienced and trained security officers, supervisors, and guards on the cruise ship and/or otherwise provide adequate security to its female crew members;
  5. Failing to install security cameras on the cruise ship in the crew area and other public areas, which are monitored by security personnel, which could serve as a deterrent to incidents of sexual harassment and/or assault or permit RCCL to respond to such incidents;
  6. Failing to provide adequate training, instruction, and supervision of its crew and/or staff members;
  7. Failing to maintain and enforce reasonable rules and regulations regarding preventing sexual harassment and/or assault;
  8. Refusing to implement the recommendations of security experts and sexual harassment experts;
  9. Failing to implement and promulgate adequate policies and/or rules regulating male employees sleeping overnight in female crew cabins;
  10. Failing to implement and promulgate adequate policies and/or rules regulating unwanted guests staying overnight in crew cabins;
  11. Failing to perform adequate background checks on their employees;
  12. Negligently hiring, selecting and retaining crew members with dangerous propensities;
  13. Failing to adequately investigate prior and subsequent incidents and injuries where crew members and passengers have been sexually harassed and/or sexually assaulted and/or battered on the M/S Mariner of the Seas, and other vessels in the fleet of cruise ships owned and operated by RCCL;
  14. Ignoring prior complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assaults on the M/S Mariner of the Seas and other vessels in the fleet of cruise ships owned and operated by RCCL and failing to implement a system of protecting female employees and passengers on the cruise ships;
  15. Failing to respond reasonably to incidents of sexual harassment and/or sexual assault and/or sexual battery;
  16. Requiring JANE DOE to work under hostile conditions;
  17. Failing to warn JANE DOE of the unreasonably dangerous conditions which existed on the ship including the prevalence of rapists on cruise ships;
  18. Failing to provide prompt, adequate, and complete medical care which aggravated JANE DOE’s injuries and caused JANE DOE to experience additional pain and suffering and disability.
  19. RCCL knew of the forgoing conditions which caused the Plaintiff’s harm and did not correct them, or the conditions existed for a sufficient length of time so that RCCL, in the exercise of reasonable care should have learned of them and corrected them.
  20. As a direct and proximate result of RCCL’s breach of the foregoing legal duties and negligence, JANE DOE suffered bodily injury and resulting pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, loss of earnings, loss of ability to earn money, aggravation of previously existing conditions, and medical expenses. These losses and injuries are either permanent or continuing and JANE DOE will suffer these losses and injuries in the future.
  21. Punitive damages have long been recognized in maritime tort actions and may be awarded where Defendant’s actions were intentional, deliberate and/or so wanton and reckless as to demonstrate a conscious disregard of the rights of others. Here, RCCL’s conduct warrants the imposition of punitive damages.

            WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands all damages entitled by law, including punitive damages, and demands jury trial of all issues so triable.

COUNT II

STRICT LIABILTY AGAINST DEFENDANT RCCL

FOR THE INTENTIONAL ACTS OF MEUGIN FREDERICKS

Plaintiff realleges, incorporates by reference and adopts paragraphs 1 through 32 as though they were originally alleged herein.

  1. On or about the previously stated date, RCCL employed MEUGIN FREDERICKS to work aboard the M/S Mariner of the Seas.
  2. At all times material, MEUGIN FREDERICKS was RCCL’s employee. As such, RCCL had inherent authority to control his day-to-day job duties, paid him a salary, and determine whether to renew or terminate his contracts.
  3. On or about the previously stated date, MEUGIN FREDERICKS sexually assaulted the Plaintiff, abusing the position given to him by RCCL.
  4. By virtue of RCCL’s agency relationship with MEUGIN FREDERICKS, RCCL is strictly liable to the Plaintiff for the intentional torts of MEUGIN FREDERICKS. That is RCCL is strictly liable to the Plaintiff for MEUGIN FREDERICKS’s sexual assault of the Plaintiff.
  5. As a direct and proximate result of the intentional acts of RCCL’s employee, MEUGIN FREDERICKS, JANE DOE suffered bodily injury and resulting pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, loss of earnings, loss of ability to earn money, aggravation of previously existing conditions, and medical expenses. These losses and injuries are either permanent or continuing and JANE DOE will suffer these losses and injuries in the future.

            WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands all damages entitled by law, including punitive damages, and demands jury trial of all issues so triable.

COUNT III

INTENTIONAL TORT OF SEXUAL ASSAULT

AGAINST DEFENDANT MEUGIN FREDERICKS

Plaintiff realleges, incorporates by reference and adopts paragraphs 1 through 32 as though they were originally alleged herein.

  1. On or about November 10, 2013, the Plaintiff was a victim of sexual assault at the hands of a RCCL employee, Defendant MEUGIN FREDERICKS, onboard Defendant RCCL’s vessel, M/S Mariner of the Seas.
  2. As a direct and proximate result of the intentional tort of sexual assault by MEUGIN FREDERICKS, JANE DOE suffered bodily injury and resulting pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, loss of earnings, loss of ability to earn money, aggravation of previously existing conditions, and medical expenses. These losses and injuries are either permanent or continuing and JANE DOE will suffer these losses and injuries in the future.
  3. Punitive damages have long been recognized in maritime tort actions and may be awarded where Defendant’s actions were intentional, deliberate and/or so wanton and reckless as to demonstrate a conscious disregard of the rights of others. Here, MEUGIN FREDERICKS’s conduct warrants the imposition of punitive damages.

            WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands all damages entitled by law, including punitive damages and demands jury trial of all issues so triable.

COUNT IV

FAILURE TO PROVIDE PROMPT, ADEQUATE

AND COMPLETE MEDICAL TREATMENT

Plaintiff realleges, incorporates by reference and adopts paragraphs 1 through 32 as though they were originally alleged herein.

  1. On or about the previously stated date, Plaintiff was employed by Defendant RCCL as a seaman and was a member of the vessel crew on which she served. The vessel was in navigable waters.
  2. It was the duty of Defendant RCCL to provide Plaintiff with prompt, proper and adequate medical care when she presented for treatment.
  3. Defendant RCCL, through the ship’s physicians and/or nurses, negligently failed to provide Plaintiff with prompt, proper, adequate, and complete medical care. This conduct includes, but is not limited to:
  4. Failing to properly and adequately diagnose JANE DOE’s medical condition;
  5. Failing to adequately and promptly treat JANE DOE’s injuries;
  6. Failing to prescribe appropriate medication and therapy to JANE DOE;
  7. Failing to provide adequate counseling to JANE DOE;
  8. Failing to evaluate JANE DOE’s mental condition and/or status following the sexual assault;
  9. Failing to schedule JANE DOE with appropriate medical care and treatment;
  10. Failing to refer JANE DOE ashore promptly for medical evaluation, including appropriate diagnostic tests or procedures;
  11. Failing to provider JANE DOE with prompt, full and complete medical care and treatment;
  12. Failing to promptly arrange and pay for required medical care and treatment when such medical care was medically necessary and directly related to the serious illness/injury JANE DOE sustained while in the service of the vessel;
  13. Failing to involve appropriate medical experts in JANE DOE’s medical care and treatment;
  14. Failing to involve appropriate rehabilitation experts in JANE DOE’s case to facilitate her recovery; and
  15. Defendant RCCL sending Plaintiff back to work after he reported her condition without     adequately determining the risks to the Plaintiff’s health that sending her back to work would subject her to.
  16. Failing to take JANE DOE’s sexual assault seriously and making light of the situation. Specifically, RCCL’s shipboard doctor telling JANE DOE that she did not need a psychologist and/or counseling because she “looked fine.” Additionally, RCCL’s shipboard doctor telling JANE DOE that she owed him lunch immediately after performing the rape kit.
  17. As a direct and proximate result of Defendant RCCL’s failure to provide JANE DOE with prompt, adequate, and complete medical care, JANE DOE sustained additional illness/injuries, prolonged and delayed recovery, additional pain and suffering, mental anguish, depression disability, lost wages, and loss of earning capability.
  18. This Count is alleged separately from Jones Act Negligence pursuant to Joyce v. Atlantic Richfield Company, 651 F. 2d 676 (10th 1981) which states, in part, “Negligent failure to provide prompt medical attention to a seriously injured seaman gives rise to a separate claim for relief [for which separate damages are awardable].”

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands all damages entitled by law and demands jury trial of all issues so triable.

COUNT V

FAILURE TO PROVIDE MAINTENANCE AND CURE

Plaintiff realleges, incorporates by reference and adopts paragraphs 1 through 32 as though they were originally alleged herein.

  1. On or about the previously stated dates, Plaintiff, while in the service of Defendant’s vessel as a crew member, was injured.
  2. Under the General Maritime Law, Plaintiff, as a seaman, is entitled to recover maintenance and cure from Defendant RCCL, until Plaintiff is declared to have reached maximum possible cure. This includes unearned wages (regular wages, overtime, vacation pay and tips), which were reasonably anticipated to the end of the contract or voyage whichever is longer.
  3. Defendant RCCL willfully and callously delayed, failed and/or refused to pay Plaintiff’s entire maintenance and refused to provide the Plaintiff the level of cure that the Plaintiff needs so that Plaintiff has become obligated to pay the undersigned a reasonable attorney’s fee.
  4. An MMI declaration must be unequivocal and if not any doubts or controversy regarding whether or not the seaman is at MMI must be resolved in favor of the seaman.
  5. Defendant RCCL’s failure to pay Plaintiff’s maintenance and cure is willful, arbitrary, capricious, in violation of the law, and in callous disregard for Plaintiff’s right as a seaman. As such, Plaintiff would be entitled to attorney’s fee under the General Maritime Law of the United States. Further, Defendant unreasonably failed to pay or provide Plaintiff with maintenance and cure which aggravated her condition and caused Plaintiff to suffer additional compensatory damages including but not limited to the aggravation of Plaintiff’s physical condition, disability, pain and suffering, reasonable fear of developing future physical and medical problems, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, feelings of economic insecurity as well as lost earnings or earning capacity, and medical and hospital expenses in the past and into the future.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands all damages entitled by law, attorneys’ fees, punitive damages and demands jury trial of all issues so triable.

Respectfully submitted,

Lipcon, Margulies, Alsina & Winkleman, P.A.

Attorneys for Plaintiff
One Biscayne Tower, Suite 1776
2 South Biscayne Boulevard
Miami, Florida 33131
Telephone No.: (305) 373-3016
Facsimile No.: (305) 373-6204
By:  /s/ Michael A. Winkleman       
MICHAEL A. WINKLEMAN
Florida Bar No. 36719

PETER J. RIDGE
Florida Bar No. 114263