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L.A. v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

June 22, 2018

L.A., a minor, by and through his mother, natural Guardian and next friend, T.A., Plaintiff,



         THIS CAUSE comes before the Court on Defendant ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISES, LTD.'s (“Defendant”) Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint (the “Motion”) [ECF No. 10]. The Court has carefully reviewed the Motion, the record, and the applicable law. For the reasons discussed below, the Motion is denied.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         On August 22, 2017, Plaintiff L.A. (“Plaintiff”), a minor, by and through his mother, natural Guardian and next friend, T.A., filed his Complaint against Defendant setting forth one count for negligence, and one count for intentional infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”). Plaintiff demands both actual and punitive damages under both counts.

         This action arises out of the sexual assault, battery, and abuse of Plaintiff while traveling as a passenger aboard Defendant's cruise ship. [ECF No. 1 ¶ 1]. Plaintiff, age thirteen at the time, was joined on the cruise by his mother and brother. [Id. at ¶¶ 11, 30]. In the early morning hours of August 16, 2015, Plaintiff was with other young passengers in the library on the cruise ship. [Id. at ¶ 30]. Plaintiff alleges that at approximately 2:00 AM, two visibly intoxicated adult passengers entered the ship's library and sexually assaulted and battered Plaintiff. [Id. at ¶ 31]. Plaintiff contends the adult assailants were overserved alcohol by Defendant. [Id.]. Plaintiff alleges that security cameras installed by Defendant captured the majority of the attack, but no employee came to his aid because the cameras were not being monitored. [Id. at ¶ 32]. Alternatively, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant's employees were monitoring the cameras and saw the assault, but did nothing to assist him. [Id. at ¶ 33]. Plaintiff argues that as a direct result of Defendant's failure to exercise reasonable care for his safety, he sustained serious physical and emotional injuries. [Id. at ¶ 43].

         Plaintiff's IIED claim arises from Defendant's conduct following the alleged assault. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant “put [Plaintiff] in the same room as the perpetrators of the sexual assault and asked [Plaintiff] to speak up about what occurred, despite the sexual assault having been recorded by Defendant's surveillance cameras.” [Id. at ¶ 50]. Plaintiff was terrified because one of the assailants “threatened to cut his head off and throw it overboard if he said anything about what occurred.” [Id.]. Plaintiff claims Defendant acted in this manner to avoid reporting the incident to authorities, demonstrating a reckless indifference to his well-being. [Id. at ¶ 51].


         To survive a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a claim “must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, '” meaning that it must contain “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). While a court must accept well-pleaded factual allegations as true, “conclusory allegations . . . are not entitled to an assumption of truth-legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations.” Randall v. Scott, 610 F.3d 701, 709-10 (11th Cir. 2010). “[T]he pleadings are construed broadly, ” Levine v. World Fin. Network Nat'l Bank, 437 F.3d 1118, 1120 (11th Cir. 2006), and the allegations in the complaint are viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Bishop v. Ross Earle & Bonan, P.A., 817 F.3d 1268, 1270 (11th Cir. 2016).


         A. Negligence (Count I)

         To plead negligence under maritime law, Plaintiff must allege that (1) Defendant had a duty to protect Plaintiff from a particular injury; (2) Defendant breached that duty; (3) the breach actually and proximately caused Plaintiff's injury; and (4) Plaintiff suffered actual harm. See Chaparro v. Carnival Corp., 693 F.3d 1333, 1336 (11th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted).

         Defendant raises several bases for dismissal of Plaintiff's negligence claim. The Court addresses each in turn.

         i. Duty

         As a cruise-ship operator, Defendant owes its passengers a duty of “reasonable care under the circumstances.” Pucci v. Carnival Corp.,146 F.Supp.3d 1281, 1286 (S.D. Fla. 2015). Defendant contends that Plaintiff's Complaint alleges a heightened duty because Plaintiff's Complaint is “premised, in part, on Royal's failure to maintain and monitor security cameras aboard the subject vessel.” [ECF No. 10, at 5]. Accordingly, to Defendant, “[t]his entire theory of negligence should be dismissed and/or stricken from the Complaint as no such duty exists under maritime law.” [Id.]. In advancing this argument, Defendant relies principally on Mizener v. Carnival Corp., No. 05-22965-CIV, 2006 WL 8430159 (S.D. Fla. June 16, 2006), arguing that “Mizener specifically held that placement of a camera aboard a vessel does not create a duty to monitor the camera for the safety and security of the vessel's passengers.” [ECF No. 10, at 5]. However, the plaintiff in Mizener did not claim that he relied upon the camera, or that the cruise ship advertised the camera as a security measure. Mizener, 2006 WL 8430159, at *3 (noting that a cruise-ship operator may have a duty to monitor security cameras where it advertised the camera and its security benefits and Plaintiff alleged reliance on same). Indeed, courts have distinguished Mizener and declined to dismiss negligence claims where the passenger plaintiff alleges the cruise ship advertised security cameras and the plaintiff relied on same. For example, in Doe v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., No. 11-23323-CIV, 2011 WL 6727959 (S.D. Fla. Mar. 19, 2012), a cruise ship passenger alleged that she relied upon the fact that she would be continuously monitored by security cameras during the cruise. Doe, 2011 WL 6727959, at *3. In denying the motion to dismiss, the Doe court explained that “[t]he plaintiff's alleged reliance … is a factual circumstance, not a legal conclusion, which the Court must accept as true.” Id. The court further noted that “[w]hether the plaintiff did in fact rely on the presence of surveillance cameras, and whether that reliance was reasonable in view of the defendant's ...

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