We are pleased that the criminal proceedings have finished and resulted in no jail time and no admission of facts for Chloe’s grandfather. The likely answer as to why criminal charges were filed in the first place became clear when the Captain of the Freedom of the Seas was recently deposed in the pending civil case against Royal Caribbean. Just after the incident, the Ship’s Captain wrote to the U.S. Coast Guard that Chloe’s grandfather, Mr. Anello, had to know the window was open because Mr. Anello’s “upper body was outside the window frame itself” before Chloe fell. This statement was shown to be a lie because the Captain admitted, under oath that despite his previous statement to the U.S. Coast Guard, Mr. Anello’s upper body was never outside of the window frame at any point while Mr. Anello was in the area. As such, it is quickly seen that this lie from the Ship’s Captain was the genesis of the Puerto Rican authorities ultimately pressing criminal charges against Mr. Anello.
The discovery phase in the family’s civil case against Royal Caribbean has just completed and it bears noting that there is not a single piece of evidence to support the argument that Salvatore Anello was aware the window was open. Instead, the evidence is clear that Mr. Anello made an honest mistake, but because of Royal Caribbean’s failure to take any steps to protect its youngest passengers, it turned into a fatal tragedy.
Importantly, today’s sentencing coincides with the filing of significant motions to be filed today by the Wiegand family. First, the Wiegand family is seeking sanctions against Royal Caribbean for the destruction of critical CCTV footage. After this tragedy that took Chloe’s life, both the U.S. Coast Guard and the attorneys for the Wiegand family immediately requested (within 48 hours of the incident), the CCTV footage which showed who opened the subject window and when it was opened. Royal Caribbean admits it was aware of these requests, but nonetheless Royal Caribbean knowingly and intentionally destroyed this critical CCTV footage of the time leading up to the incident. As argued, Royal Caribbean’s clear intent to deprive the Wiegand family of this critical evidence warrants the imposition of harsh sanctions including entry of default judgment against Royal Caribbean.
Next, the Wiegand family also filed a Motion for summary judgment and asks the Court to find that Royal Caribbean is liable for this tragedy. As argued in said motion, the evidence is undisputed that Royal Caribbean was entirely aware of the precise risk that led to Chloe’s preventable death and yet took no reasonable steps to prevent it. As to notice, a former Royal Caribbean Chief Security Officer testified that this railing and these windows were a well-known hazard for years. And a former passenger testified about a near fall incident that almost took the life of a small child just two years prior to Chloe’s death. As to liability, the record evidence is similarly undisputed that Royal Caribbean failed to follow the universally followed industry standard of abiding by window fall prevention codes. Literally thousands of children under 5 years old are injured or killed each year from accidental window falls. Responsible corporations follow simple steps that save children’s lives, such as limiting a window opening to no more than 4 inches. Herein, Royal Caribbean did nothing to protect Chloe from this known danger. Accordingly, the family has asked the Court to enter Summary Judgment as to liability and the matter should proceed to trial by jury as to damages only.
Trial in this important case is set for April 26, 2021.
Below please find our our most recent filings in the case.