Carnival Cruise Line owes alleged rape victim $10 million, says jury


A jury in a Miami federal court has found that Carnival Cruise Line owes $10.2 million to a woman who claimed that a crew member raped her during a 2018 cruise.

Tuesday’s ruling in the Southern District of Florida determined that Freddy Angara, as a carnival employee, committed sexual assault on a woman who filed a lawsuit in 2019 in the name of Jane Doe. The jury found Carnival liable for $243,000 in past and future medical and psychological expenses and $10 million in additional damages for physical and emotional distress.

“I understand it’s the greatest judgment ever [for] “A victim of sexual assault on a major cruise line,” said Daniel Courtney, the attorney for the woman who filed the suit.

Both the woman and the Carnival company can apply for a different batch. Kourtney said this process could go on for years.

The jury found that Carnival was not negligent in the assault and that Angara had not intentionally caused emotional distress to the plaintiff.

Carnival Corp issued a written statement saying it denies the allegations in the lawsuit and intends to appeal the decision.

“The crew member admitted that he had a consensual sexual encounter with the guest, which is consistent with an FBI investigation that concluded that the meeting was consensual,” Carnival said in a statement. Courtney said the FBI has not brought criminal charges against Angara, and the lawsuit did not name him as a defendant.

Courtney said his client was “extremely drunk” and “trembling” at the time of the alleged rape because she hit the back of her head during a fall.

“Saying this is consensual is really painful for her,” Kourtney said.

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According to a Carnival statement, the company fired Angara after reporting the incident because it had a zero-tolerance policy for “crew fraternization with guests.”

“The safety and security of Carnival guests is paramount,” the statement said. “Carnival complies with all applicable rules and regulations for security and guest safety, including the US Cruise Ship Safety and Security Act and US Coast Guard requirements. Carnival is also RAINN certified and follows its guidelines for handling and investigating alleged sexual assaults.”

The case falls under federal jurisdiction in accordance with the General Maritime Code. The Washington Post did not identify the victims of the alleged sexual crimes.

According to a civil complaint filed in Miami, the accident occurred aboard the Carnival Miracle on December 1, 2018, when the plaintiff was 21 years old. The suit says it was her first cruise.

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The lawsuit says Angara was waiting for the plaintiff while she was going up a staircase on her own, at which point he locked her in a maintenance locker and raped her. The lawsuit says that immediately after that, the plaintiff went to her room, told her friend what had happened and “began to become agitated and had panic attacks.”

The plaintiff reported the alleged assault to carnival employees, then submitted to a rape kit and interviews with ship security and FBI agents, according to the civil complaint.

The lawsuit alleges that Carnival was responsible for the rape because it failed to monitor dark public areas of the ship where women could be vulnerable to assaults. It says the company should have exercised a reasonable level of care for guests because “on board its cruise ships, there were numerous assaults, battery, sexual assaults, battery, rape and assaults perpetrated by the crew on the passengers”.

In court documents in response to questions from a Carnival Corp representative, the plaintiff described how the alleged assault changed her life.

“I have bouts of depression,” she says in the documents. I suffer from anxiety, especially in public. It affected how intimate with anyone.”

“At my lowest point, I thought about killing myself,” it says in the documents. “I have a plan. I went to visit my friends and created memories for them to remind me of. I also wrote everyone’s notes. I was hospitalized.”

In statistics maintained by the Department of Transportation showing allegations of criminal activity on ships carrying and disembarking passengers in the United States, sexual assault is the largest crime. There were 82 allegations in 2018 and 101 in 2019. The pandemic forced an industry-wide halt to sailing in March 2020, and management has not updated reports since cruise ships began sailing again.

Attorney Michael Winkleman said his firm, Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman, handles a “huge” number of sexual assault cases on behalf of cruise passengers. He did not work in the Carnival lawsuit that was decided this week.

“I always say it’s a plague hidden in the sea,” he said. He cited the lack of independent law enforcement on ships and excessive alcohol service as contributing factors.

“You have unlimited drink packages that are on all cruise lines,” Winkelman said. “It’s just a recipe for people who are massively overindulged, and who consume way too much alcohol, and that’s when bad things happen.”

He said that most of these cases lead to confidential settlements.

“It’s a little unusual for the case to go to trial as it did, and I think the outcome is an important one,” Winkelman said.

Cruise industry officials have insisted over the years that allegations of serious crimes on ships are rare, pointing to an industry report comparing violent crime rates at sea and on land.

Alice Critts contributed to this report.

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