Cruise line can face lawsuit over sexual assault

A federal appeals court Wednesday ruled that a lawsuit can move forward against Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd., over allegations that a teenage ship passenger was plied with alcohol and then gang raped in a cabin.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower-court decision that dismissed the case, which was filed in the Southern District of Florida.

Wednesday’s ruling said a minor, identified by the initials K.T., was on a Royal Caribbean cruise in late 2015 with her two sisters and grandparents when nearly a dozen male passengers bought alcoholic drinks for her in a lounge and other public areas of the ship. The minor became intoxicated and was led to a cabin where she was gang raped, the ruling said.

The minor sued Royal Caribbean, but a district judge found that the “claims against Royal Caribbean failed, because they did not sufficiently allege that Royal Caribbean breached its duty of care or that any breach proximately caused her injuries,” Wednesday’s ruling said. But a three-judge panel of the Atlanta-based appeals court reversed the decision and sent the case back to the lower court.

“In sum, the complaint has sufficiently alleged that because Royal Caribbean’s crewmembers did nothing to prevent the large group of men from plying K.T. with enough alcohol to incapacitate her and did nothing to stop those men from leading her away to a private cabin, Royal Caribbean breached the duty of ordinary care it owed her,” said the ruling, written by appeals court Chief Judge Ed Carnes and joined by judges Robin Rosenbaum and Frank Hull. “And it is self-evident from the allegations of the complaint that but for Royal Caribbean’s breach of its duties of care to K.T. she would not have been brutalized and gang raped. If the allegations are true, Royal Caribbean proximately caused the alleged injuries. The complaint states a claim against Royal Caribbean.”