The Virgin Islands Daily News reports today on the death of a young girl killed during a cruise stop in St. Thomas. We represent the parents of the deceased girl, Liz Marie Peréz Chaparro, a victim of the saddest, most senseless and avoidable tragedies we have ever seen in 28 years of practicing law. Here is the article today:
"ST. THOMAS – The family of Liz Marie Peréz Chaparro, the 14-year-old girl killed by a stray bullet in a shooting at Coki Point beach last year, is suing Carnival Corporation for the wrongful death of their daughter and for not warning the family about the high level of crime on St. Thomas.
The civil lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Florida, seeks damages in excess of $75,000.
On the morning of July 12, 2010, gunfire broke out during a burial service at Coki Point cemetery, leaving St. Thomas resident Shaheel Joseph, 18, and Liz Marie dead.
The area was crowded with mourners and tourists, including Liz Marie and her family, who were traveling onboard the Carnival Victory. The family, from Puerto Rico, was celebrating their daughter’s quinceañera, or 15th birthday, as well as the parents’ 23rd wedding anniversary.
Liz Marie and her family were riding in a safari taxi leaving Coki Point beach and Coral World when the mid-morning gunfire broke out. Liz Marie was shot once in the side and was rushed to Schneider Hospital but died shortly after.
In April, a V.I. Superior Court jury convicted Steve Tyson, 22, of killing Joseph and Liz Marie. He is scheduled for sentencing June 21.
Liz Marie’s father, Ceferino Peréz; mother, Aida Esther Chaparro; and 21-year-old brother, Amilkar Peréz Chaparro are plaintiffs in the civil lawsuit against Carnival.
The complaint says the defendant, Carnival Corporation, has a duty to warn passengers of any danger known to exist in any port of call.
According to court documents, on the family’s first night of the cruise a Carnival employee encouraged the family to visit Coral World and Coki Point beach while on St. Thomas.
"Coki Beach is well known as a location for drug sales, thefts, and gang violence. There have been numerous reported violent crimes at Coki Beach. Carnival was well aware of these violent crimes," the family’s complaint said.
The lawsuit characterizes the burial service as a gang funeral conducted for a gang member who had been shot to death by a rival gang member the previous week.
The service at Coki Point cemetery was for Joseph Ferrari, 23, who was shot in broad daylight in front of Tutu Park Mall on June 29, 2010.
The Perez family’s lawsuit cites local news reports about the high number of homicides in the territory in 2009 and 2010. It also quotes testimony of V.I. Attorney General Vincent Frazer at a Senate hearing three months prior to the Coki Point shooting acknowledging that many of the territory’s killings were the result of turf wars and revenge killings.
"Defendant knew or should have known that St. Thomas was experiencing a crime wave and that homicides in the Virgin Islands were at record highs," the complaint said.
Liz Marie’s death was because of Carnival’s negligent failure to investigate or screen its ports of call, the lawsuit said.
The suit also accuses Carnival of concealing, suppressing and mischaracterizing information about prior incidents where cruise ship passengers were victimized and of protecting Carnival’s own business interests at the expense of passengers’ rights."
– Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 774-7882 ext. 311 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cruise lines have a legal duty to warn their passengers of dangers in the ports of call. For our article about this terrible crime, read: More Caribbean Crime – Carnival Passenger Killed In St. Thomas.
A copy of the lawsuit is available on line here (via courthousenews.com).
For additional information, read: "Heartache Wrenches Those Who Knew Slain Girl"