“It’s my understanding it is the largest verdict ever [for] a sexual assault victim against a major cruise line,” said Daniel Courtney, the lawyer for the woman who filed the suit.
Both the woman and Carnival Corporation can file motions to seek a different payment. Courtney said that process could drag on for years.
The jury found that Carnival was not negligent in the assault and that Anggara did not intentionally inflict emotional distress upon the plaintiff.
Carnival Corp. released a written statement saying it denies the allegations in the lawsuit and intends to appeal the decision.
“The crewmember admitted that he had a consensual sexual encounter with the guest which is consistent with an investigation by the FBI that concluded the encounter was consensual,” Carnival said in a statement. The FBI did not bring criminal charges against Anggara, Courtney said, and the lawsuit did not name him as a defendant.
Courtney said his client was “heavily intoxicated” and “concussed” at the time of the alleged rape because she hit the back of her head during a fall.
“To say that it’s consensual is really hurtful to her,” Courtney said.
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According to Carnival’s statement, the company fired Anggara after the incident was reported because it has 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 U.S. Cruise Vessel Safety and Security Act and U.S. 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 according to general maritime law. The Washington Post does not identify victims of alleged sex crimes.
According to the civil complaint filed in Miami, the incident took place aboard the Carnival Miracle on Dec. 1, 2018, when the plaintiff was 21 years old. The lawsuit states it was her first cruise.
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Anggara was waiting for the plaintiff while she walked up a flight of stairs by herself, the lawsuit says, at which point he locked her in a maintenance closet and raped her. Immediately afterward, the lawsuit says, the plaintiff went to her room, told her friend what happened and “started hyperventilating and having panic attacks.”
The plaintiff reported the alleged assault to Carnival staffers, then submitted to a rape kit and interviews with ship security and FBI agents, according to the civil complaint.
The lawsuit claims Carnival was liable 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 level of reasonable care for guests because “on board its cruise ships there have been numerous assaults, batteries, sexual assaults and batteries, rapes, and attacks perpetrated by crew on passengers.”
In court documents responding to questions from Carnival Corp.’s representation, the plaintiff described how the alleged assault changed her life.
“I have depressive episodes,” she says in the documents. “I suffer from anxiety especially in public. It has affected how intimate I am with a person.”
“At my lowest point I thought of killing myself,” she says in the documents. “I had a plan. I went around to visit my friends and created memories for them to remember me. I also wrote everyone notes. I was hospitalized.”
In statistics kept by the Department of Transportation showing allegations of criminal activity on ships that embark and disembark passengers in the United States, sexual assault is the top offense. There were 82 allegations in 2018 and 101 in 2019. The pandemic forced an industry-wide halt to cruise sailings in March 2020, and the department has not updated the reports since cruise ships started 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 on the Carnival lawsuit that was decided this week.
“I always say it’s a hidden epidemic at sea,” he said. He pointed to the lack of independent law enforcement on ships and an over-service of alcohol as contributing factors.
“You’ve got these unlimited drink packages that are on all the cruise lines,” Winkleman said. “It’s just a recipe for people just dramatically being overserved, dramatically consuming too much alcohol, and that’s when bad things happen.”
He said most such cases result in confidential settlements.
“It is somewhat atypical for a case to go all the way to trial like this did, and I think the result is a significant result,” Winkleman said.
Cruise industry officials have insisted over the years that allegations of serious crime on ships are rare, pointing to an industry-commissioned report comparing rates of violent crimes at sea and on land.
Alice Crites contributed to this report.