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Jury says Carnival Cruise Line owes alleged rape victim $10 million

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A Miami federal jury found that Carnival Cruise Line owed $10.2 million to a woman who alleged a crew member raped her while on a cruise in 2018.

A verdict handed down Tuesday in Florida’s Southern District determined that, as a Carnival employee, Freddie Angara sexually assaulted a woman who filed a lawsuit in 2019 as Jane Doe. The jury found Carnival liable for past and future medical and psychological costs of $243,000 and $10 million in additional damages for physical and emotional suffering.

“As far as I understand, this is the biggest sentence ever [for] victim of sexual assault against a major cruise line,” said Daniel Courtney, a lawyer for the woman who filed the lawsuit.

Both the woman and Carnival Corporation may petition for a different payment. Courtney said that this process could drag on for years.

The jury concluded that Karnaval had not been negligent in the attack and that Angara had not intentionally caused the plaintiff emotional distress.

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

“The crew member acknowledged that he had a consensual sexual encounter with a guest, consistent with an FBI investigation that concluded the contact was consensual,” Carnival said in a statement. According to Courtney, the FBI did not file criminal charges against Angara, and he was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit.

Courtney said his client was “very drunk” and “concussed” during the alleged rape because she hit the back of her head during the fall.

“To say it was consensual is very hurtful for her,” Kourtney said.

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According to a statement from Carnival, the company fired Anggara after it became aware of the incident because it has a zero tolerance policy for “crew fraternization with guests.”

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

The case falls under federal jurisdiction under the general maritime law. The Washington Post does not identify victims of alleged sex crimes.

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

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Angara waited for the plaintiff while she herself climbed the stairs, the lawsuit says, after which he locked her in the closet and raped her. Immediately afterwards, according to the lawsuit, the plaintiff went to her room, told her friend what had happened, and “she began to hyperventilate and have panic attacks.”

According to the civil lawsuit, the plaintiff reported the alleged attack to Carnival employees and then submitted a rape kit and interviews with shipboard security and FBI agents.

The lawsuit alleges that Carnival was responsible for the rape because it failed to monitor the ship’s dark public areas where women could be vulnerable to attack. It states that the company had to take reasonable care of the guests because “there have been numerous assaults, beatings, sexual assaults and beatings, rapes and attacks by the crew on passengers on board its cruise ships.”

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

“I have depressive episodes,” the documents say. “I suffer from anxiety, especially in public. It affected how close I am to the person.”

“At my lowest point, I thought about suicide,” she says in the documents. “I had a plan. I went to visit my friends and created memories so that they would remember me. I also wrote notes for everyone. I was hospitalized.”

In Department of Transportation statistics showing allegations of criminal activity on ships that pick up and drop off passengers in the United States, sexual assault is the top crime. There were 82 applications in 2018 and 101 in 2019. The pandemic forced the entire industry to stop cruise flights in March 2020, and the department has not updated reports since cruise ships started sailing again.

Lawyer Michael Winkleman said his firm Lipcon, Margulies & Winkleman is handling a “massive” number of sexual harassment cases on behalf of cruise passengers. He did not work on the Carnival lawsuit, which was decided this week.

“I always say it’s a hidden maritime epidemic,” he said. He cited the lack of independent law enforcement on the ships and excessive drinking as contributing factors.

“You have these unlimited drink packages that all cruise lines have,” Winkleman said. “It’s just a recipe for people who overeat suddenly, drink too much alcohol abruptly, and that’s when bad things happen.”

He said that most of these cases end in a confidential settlement.

“It’s somewhat atypical when it comes to court the way it happened and I think it’s a significant result,” Winkleman said.

Cruise industry officials have insisted for years that allegations of serious crime on ships are rare, pointing to an industry-prepared report that compares rates of violent crime at sea and on land.

Alice Krayts contributed to this report.

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