Disney Cruise Line sued for $20M as parents say their 3-year-old daughter was sexually abused onboard

National

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Two Vermont parents are suing Disney, specifically the Disney Cruise Line, alleging that their 3-year-old daughter was sexually abused by another passenger while on the ship, and that staff did not intervene.

The complaint lists five counts of negligence that culminated in the alleged sexual assault of their 3-year-old daughter.

Margaret C. Giacalone, the Magical Cruise Company’s Registered Agent, has been issued a summons to appear in court as a result of the lawsuit. Disney Cruise Line is the business name of Magical Cruise Company.

The parents, named as John and Jane Doe in the court filings, are represented by Michael A Winkleman, Esq. of Miami, Fla.

Facts, in brief

The lawsuit is seeking $20 million in damages for the 2020 incident, where the parents say their daughter was physically restrained and sexually assaulted by a 12-year-old passenger in the cruise’s Youth Club’s Lab Media Lounge. The Youth Club was offered for passengers 3 to 12 years old.

The Vermont family were paying passengers on the Disney Cruise Line during a seven day trip from Jan. 4 to Jan. 11, 2020. The incident in question is said to have occurred on Jan. 9, 2020, when R.V. was in the care of the Disney Youth Club staff.

In the complaint filed in court, the parents of R.V., the victim, say that their daughter “was excessively groped and sexually touched in her private parts by the older child and did not have the physical capability to break through the physical restraint” to stop the sexual assault.

The complaint also alleges that the Youth Club personnel on the cruise “failed to recognize the sexual assault, and therefore, allowed the ongoing abuse suffered” to continue at the hands of the other passenger. The filing also alleges that at no time did staff notify the parents of the sexual assault, including their daughter’s “emotional and physical distress during and immediately after the incident.”

8 On Your Side has reached out to attorneys for the plaintiffs and defendant for comment on the case.

In response to the request for comment, a Disney Spokesperson issued the following statement:

This lawsuit is wholly without merit. The plaintiffs’ first allegations were reported to the FBI, and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office investigated them and determined them to be unfounded. The plaintiffs have now come back with a different story, which is equally unfounded, that another young female child acted inappropriately with their child. We will vigorously defend this case in court.

Response by a Disney Spokesperson about the lawsuit

The 5 counts

Count I – Negligence for Sexual Assault

The plaintiffs, R.V.’s parents, allege that at all times, it was Disney’s duty to provide their daughter with reasonable care under the circumstances while a passenger aboard the Disney Fantasy ship. On Jan. 9, R.V. was injured due to the fault of the defendant and/or its agents, servants or employees.

The complaint states that Disney’s failure to provide reasonable safe conditions for R.V. aboard the vessel and staff’s failure to notify or warn her parents that she was left unsupervised in the Youth Club, as well as failure to notify of R.V. being “sexually assaulted and/or physically battered” by another young passenger, and failure to tell the parents that their daughter was “experiencing mental anguish and trauma” following her alleged sexual assault, all contribute to the allegations of negligence.

Additionally, the first count also says that staff “negligently” grouped passengers together while they were all unsupervised, and staff’s failed to ascertain the “extreme emotional and mental anguish” and suffering during the incident, among other claims of failing to safely enforce policies that would have prevented the assault from happening.

Count II – Negligent Supervision

The plaintiffs, R.V.’s parents, further say that it was the defendant’s duty to provide reasonable care to their daughter while onboard Disney Fantasy, and that due to the negligence of their staff, she was injured. The count listed here also “re-alleges, adopts and incorporates” the allegations detailed through their complaint.

The parents say that Disney’s staff failed to adequately supervise their daughter or ascertain her maturity level and interests for placement in the nursery, with other children of her size and maturity level. They say that the failure to conduct proper and adequate safety rounds in compliance with company policy, included reporting suspicious or criminal conduct to ensure the safety of children in the Youth Club.

Additionally, the second count includes further detailing of company staff’s failures, such as “Failure to timely and properly identify Plaintiff’s incident involving sexual assault and/or physical battery in a timely manner in order to facilitate care, reporting, and corrective action pursuant” to policies and procedures in place.

The count says that as a direct result of the detailed failures and negligence, their daughter was sexually assaulted, leading to “pain and suffering; mental anguish; inconvenience; great shame, psychological trauma, psychological scarring, embarrassment, humiliation, aggravation of preexisting conditions, the loss of the capacity for the enjoyment of life; and other mental and/or nervous disorders, and has incurred medical expenses in the past and will incur medical expenses in the future.”

The plaintiffs are demanding damages for what they say are permanent injuries, which will cause their daughter to suffer losses and impairments in the future.

Count III – Negligent Mode of Operation

As a result of the aforementioned incident and negligent actions by staff, the plaintiffs also allege that the way the Youth Club was operated onboard was itself negligent. The count listed here also “re-alleges, adopts and incorporates” the allegations detailed through their complaint.

At all times, R.V.’s parents say that the mode of operating the Youth Club was “unreasonably dangerous” and Disney “created a dangerous and/or unsafe condition” as a result. The plaintiffs say that at all times, the defendant knew of the dangerous conditions, causing the incident and failing to warn them about what had happened.

As a result, R.V. was allegedly injured in the previously detailed manners, leading to her “pain and suffering; mental anguish; inconvenience; great shame, psychological trauma, psychological scarring, embarrassment, humiliation, aggravation of preexisting conditions, the loss of the capacity for the enjoyment of life; and other mental and/or nervous disorders, and has incurred medical expenses in the past and will incur medical expenses in the future.”

Count IV – Negligent Hiring and/or Retention

R.V.’s parents also state that Disney’s hiring and retention practices are negligent, and that the company had a duty to hire properly qualified and competent personnel to work as staff for the Youth Club. The count listed here also “re-alleges, adopts and incorporates” the allegations detailed through their complaint.

Their allegations state that the defendant undertook a duty to do so while providing staff for a child care or day-care facility aboard the cruise ship.

The plaintiffs say in their filed complaint that Disney knew of the dangerous conditions and failed to warn them, that the conditions had existed for a long enough time that the defendant should have learned of the incident and warned the parents, and that prior alleged incidents involving passengers similar to what happened to their daughter should have been or were already reported across the cruise industry.

According to the plaintiffs, background checks, investigations, complaints and other incidents “should have revealed the Youth Club personnel’s lack of proper education, licenses, training, experience and/or skills” set forth in their complaint which would have prevented the incident from happening.

Again, as a result of the detailed negligence, R.V. was allegedly injured in the previously detailed manners, leading to her “pain and suffering; mental anguish; inconvenience; great shame, psychological trauma, psychological scarring, embarrassment, humiliation, aggravation of preexisting conditions, the loss of the capacity for the enjoyment of life; and other mental and/or nervous disorders, and has incurred medical expenses in the past and will incur medical expenses in the future.”

Count V – Negligent Failure to Warn

The final count of the lawsuit by the parents of R.V. “re-alleges, adopts and incorporates” the allegations detailed through their complaint.

The failure to warn the parents of what had allegedly happened to R.V. is the center of the final count of the suit. The plaintiffs allege that at all times while on board, Disney and its cruise line staff knew or had seen what had happened to R.V. and had not given warning to her parents.

The parents also allege, as plaintiffs in the case, that Disney had an expectation to exercise reasonable care, and should have learned of the issues on board and warned the parents about it.

The lack of supervision or warnings by Disney Cruise staff is also alleged to include prior incidents of passengers being sexually assaulted or physically battered and injured while on a Disney Cruise, with those allegations “reported within the cruise industry.”

The knowledge of the incident, and other similar incidents before the Jan. 4 cruise, “should have been acquired through” staff inspections or supervision of the Youth Club, and the lack of such supervision is negligence on the part of the defendant.

As a result of the detailed negligence, R.V. was allegedly injured in the previously detailed manners, leading to her “pain and suffering; mental anguish; inconvenience; great shame, psychological trauma, psychological scarring, embarrassment, humiliation, aggravation of preexisting conditions, the loss of the capacity for the enjoyment of life; and other mental and/or nervous disorders, and has incurred medical expenses in the past and will incur medical expenses in the future.”

The plaintiffs, according to court records, demand judgment for all damages recoverable under the law, and demand a trial by jury. They are seeking $20 million through the lawsuit as damages in the case.

>>Follow Sam Sachs on Facebook
>>Follow Sam Sachs on Twitter

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

get the app

News App

Weather App

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss