Last week, a 27 year-old guest filed a lawsuit against Princess Cruises and Park West Gallery alleging that an art auctioneer raped her on the Sky Princess cruise ship. The woman contends that an employee of the art concessionaire, Park West Gallery, raped her in a closet on the ship while she was drunk. The Daily Beast first reported the alleged crime.

Allegations in the Lawsuit

The young woman subsequently learned that she contracted HIV during the shipboard rape. The Daily Beast reported yesterday that the suit alleges that:

” . . . she was shoved into a closet by the assailant, who raped her. Despite being too intoxicated to fight him off, the plaintiff repeatedly said no according to the lawsuit; days later, after experiencing abnormal symptoms, she went to get tested by medical professionals and was diagnosed with HIV in February of 2022. ‘Plaintiff did not have any type of sexual contact with another person since early 2020,” thereby confirming that the rape led to plaintiff’s HIV diagnosis, the suit states.'”

The guest is represented by Miami maritime lawyer Michael Winkleman of the Lipcon law firm.

Cruise Line Face Strict Vicarious Liability for Shipboard Crimes

Under governing U.S. maritime law, owners and operators of cruise ships may be legally responsible when ship employees of the cruise line or shipboard concessionaires commit crimes against passengers on the ship. In Doe v. Celebrity Cruises, 394 F.3d 891 (11th Cir. 2004), the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal held that under federal maritime law, a cruise line is strictly liable when a crew member sexually assaults a passenger during a cruise, whether the cruise company employed the rapist or whether the cruise ship concessionaire employed the crew member which is the case here..

According to the Daily Beast, Park West Gallery operates on over 90 luxury cruise vessels run by Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises and others.

The lawsuit alleges that both Princess Cruises and the art concessionaire were negligent, and that the cruise line was vicariously liable for the criminal conduct of the art auctioneer.

If the guest proves that a non-consensual crime occurred, Princess Cruises will be legally responsible for the shipboard rape even though it did not directly employ the assailant nor did it have notice that he might commit the crime.

Shipboard Rapes Are the Most Frequent Crimes on Cruise Ships Reported to the Department of Transportation

Sexual assaults are the most common crimes on cruise ships reported to the Department of Transportation (DOT). In 2010, Congress passed the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act which required, for the first time, that cruise lines must report certain crimes, including sexual assaults, that happen on their ships.

From January 2019 through March 31, 2021 (when the cruise industry was shut down at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic), there were one hundred and twenty-nine (129) rapes reported on U.S. based cruise ships according to the DOT crime data. Of this number, there were fifty-three (53) rapes on Carnival Cruise Line ships, thirty-three (33) rapes on Royal Caribbean operated cruise ships, seventeen (17) rapes on NCL ships and four (4) rapes on Princess Cruises ships reported to the DOT. Most such alleged sex crimes on cruises go unprosecuted.

Our firm has handled over one hundred and twenty-five cases where women and children have been sexually assaulted during cruises.

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Image credit: Sky Princess – antonio / Flicker marantoni, CC BY 2.0 commons wikimedia (cropped).