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H.S. v. Carnival Corp.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida, Miami Division

August 31, 2017

H.S., a minor, by and through her Parents, natural guardians, and next friends, R.S. andL.S., Plaintiff,
CARNIVAL CORPORATION, a Panamanian Corporation, MAX HARMON, an Ohio resident, and JODEE C. EDWARDS, an Ohio Resident, Defendants.



         THIS CAUSE comes before the Court upon Defendant Jodee C. Edwards' Motion for Final Summary Judgment (DE #54), filed on November 14, 2016. The Court has additionally considered Plaintiffs Response in Opposition (DE #60), filed January 3, 2017, and Defendant's Reply thereto (DE #61), filed January 10, 2017. Upon review of the record and careful consideration, the Court finds that the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment should be granted.

         I. Background

         This case arises out of an alleged sexual assault upon Plaintiff H.S., a minor, allegedly perpetrated by E.H., the minor son of Defendant Jodee C. Edwards ("Edwards"), while aboard a Carnival cruise ship in January of 2015. Plaintiffs Amended Complaint (DE #33) alleges a single count of negligent supervision against Edwards on the basis that she knew or should have known that, without adequate supervision and reasonable control, her son E.H. would engage in conduct that would cause injury to Plaintiff.[1]

         In January of 2015, Plaintiff H.S., a minor age 14, was a passenger aboard the Carnival Pride with her mother, L.S., for a week-long cruise. E.H., a minor age 16, was also a passenger on the Pride, and was accompanied by his brother, Defendant Edwards, her boyfriend, and two family friends. E.H. stayed in a stateroom with his brother, age 18, and the two family friends, aged 19 and 21. Defendant Edwards and her boyfriend stayed in another stateroom.

         The Pride contains a teen nightclub, known as "Club 02, " which is intended for use by adolescents in the specific age range of fifteen to seventeen years old. Both H.S. and E.H. were registered to participate in Club 02 activities, and over the course of the cruise, H.S. and E.H. each attended youth events at Club 02, and each associated with another minor, one K.A. During the cruise, H.S. and K.A. formed an intimate relationship, engaging in sexual conduct on at least four days of the seven day cruise. E.H. did not have any sexual contact with H.S. until the final night of the cruise.

         On the second to last night of the cruise, H.S. went to a movie being shown on the Lido deck of the Pride with other minors, including E.H. During the movie, E.H. provided alcohol to H.S. and the other minors present. After drinking alcohol during the movie, H.S., E.H. and others took their alcoholic beverages to Club 02, where they continued to drink alcohol.

         On the final night of the cruise, H.S., E.H. and K.A. again attended an event at Club 02. At some point during the event, E.H. represented that he could obtain more alcohol from his brother's bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey in his stateroom. E.H. then invited both H.S. and K.A. back to his stateroom to drink alcohol again. Upon arriving at E.H.'s room, E.H., H.S., and K.A. each consumed multiple alcoholic beverages, each consuming three to four drinks of the Jack Daniels E.H. procured from his brother. After consuming the alcohol, H.S., K.A., and E.H. engaged in sexual relations in E.H.'s stateroom.

         Though aware that Carnival policy required minors to share staterooms with adults over the age of 23, after checking in for the cruise Defendant Edwards switched room keys among her boyfriend and the boys and was aware E.H. would be staying in a stateroom without adult supervision. Edwards never visited the room E.H. shared with his brother, and did not check in on activities occurring in E.H.'s stateroom at any point during the cruise. Moreover, Edwards did not explicitly give E.H. rules regulating his behavior while on the ship, and relied in part on the Pride'?, security and employees for E.H.'s safekeeping during the times she was not with E.H.

         On previous cruises, Edwards had used a device known as a "Rum Runner" to smuggle alcoholic beverages onto the cruise. E.H. and his brother were aware that Edwards had previously used Rum Runners to smuggle alcohol on previous cruises. E.H.'s brother used a Rum Runner to smuggle the Jack Daniels whiskey provided by E.H. to H.S. on the night of the incident.

         Prior to the subject cruise, E.H. had lived with Edwards his entire life. Edwards was not aware of any sexual abuse upon E.H., and had never heard of any instances of E.H. inappropriately touching others. Moreover, Edwards believed that E.H. had never had sex. Prior to the last night of the cruise, Edwards was aware that E.H. had consumed alcohol on two occasions, each time in her presence and with her consent: once at a wedding, and once more during a shore excursion on the subject cruise. There is no record evidence showing that Edwards knew E.H. had ever provided alcohol to others.

         II. Legal Standard

         "The Court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers or other materials; or showing that materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact." Id. at 56(c)(1). "In determining whether summary judgment is appropriate, the facts and inferences from the facts are viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and the burden is placed on the moving party to establish both the absence of a genuine material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986).

         In opposing a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party may not rely solely on the pleadings, but must show by affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions that specific facts exist demonstrating a genuine issue for trial. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), (e); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). Further, the existence of a "scintilla" of evidence in support of the non-movant's position is insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the non-movant. Andersen v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). Likewise, a court need not permit a case to go to a jury when the inferences that are drawn from the ...

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