Monthly Archives: May 2017

Proudly Representing Cruise Ship Cases in Miami, Nearby Areas of Florida and Nationwide

Taking a look at the Q1 2015 Department of Transportation Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA) Statistical Compilation, which is essentially a public record of cruise ship crime stats, it becomes clear that during that time period very few crimes were reported aboard cruise ships.

In all, only three thefts and three sexual assaults were reported, for a total of just six within the three-month period from January through March. But, take a look at the report for the same period of time a year later, and the stats paint a different picture.

The Q1 2016 version of the report shows that there were 15 reports of sexual assault during the time period that only saw three reports a year earlier. This is because, for years, cruise companies were not required to report crimes as they occurred. Under the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act, a peculiar rule allowed cruise companies to delay reporting crimes until the cases were closed out in the cruise companies’ own systems. This allowed the companies to delay the reporting of crimes indefinitely.

The increase in 2016 reflects the reporting going from the old system, to the new system. Though the current reporting still likely does not reflect the true situation relating to cruise ship rape and sexual assault, the numbers do show that the new reporting guidelines are having an effect towards keeping cruise companies honest.

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When an attorney is Board Certified, this means that he or she has been selected as the best of the best in his or her area of law practice. In order to become Board Certified, an attorney must:

  • Be in good standing
  • Have practiced law for a minimum of five years
  • Have taken additional educational requirements
  • Have passed a comprehensive exam
  • Have demonstrated proficiency in his or her chosen area of law.

It has been said that only about seven percent of attorneys become Board Certified in their practice areas.

If you are looking for an attorney to vigorously prosecute your case of cruise ship sexual assault or rape, you have probably asked yourself which attorney would be best for you. While there are many attorneys in the Miami area, few of them are well-versed in Maritime law, the area of law under which most cruise ship offenses fall.

Jack Hickey of Hickey Law Firm, P.A. is a Double Board Certified attorney, having been Board Certified as both a Maritime and Trial lawyer. He has decades of experience working cruise cases, and has won numerous multi-million dollar settlements for his clients.

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As a follow up to our recent blog, which discussed the right age for parents to allow their children to roam about a cruise ship on their own, we wanted to discuss the following case. As can be seen in this video, in 2009 a teenager named Taylor was cruising with her parents when one night she found herself unable to sleep. Feeling that the ship was safe, Taylor went alone to an upper deck of the ship to write in her journal and pass the time.

What happened next is truly terrifying. A Carnival Cruise Lines employee, 30-year-old Heri Krispiyanto, came across Taylor and attacked her, pulling her into a secluded part of the ship and brutally raping her.

"He pulled me into an employee-only room. I asked him what he was doing and he told me that he was going to take care of me,” Taylor told ABC News. "He raped me, I kept saying, 'No,' but he didn't care,” she said.

When Taylor returned to her cabin room, she did not reveal to her parents what had just happened to her. She kept her ordeal hidden from her parents for a full three months, as she became depressed while dealing with the trauma alone.

Every parent must decide whether or not their children are ready to go off on their own while aboard a cruise ship. But when children are finally ready for some freedom, parents should have a frank conversation about the dangers, including sexual assault, and what to do if the worst should happen.

For more information on what you should do if you or your children are ever sexually assaulted or raped aboard a cruise ship, click here.

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In this video, Jack Hickey of Hickey Law Firm, P.A. discusses why you should hire an attorney to handle your case of cruise ship sexual assault or rape. In some cases, cruise companies, their attorneys, or their insurance companies will attempt to persuade victims of cruise ship attacks to sign away their rights or settle their claims for less than the true value.

If you are ever the victim of a cruise ship sexual assault or rape, be sure to follow these steps:

  • Ensure that you immediately seek medical treatment.
  • Have a rape kit performed before using the restroom or washing.
  • Call the FBI and report the case. The cruise company should help you place the call, but do not let them speak on your behalf.
  • Save all evidence relating to the attack, including torn clothing, etc.
  • Take down the names, phone numbers, addresses, and email addresses of all witnesses.
  • When you get back to shore, seek counseling and call us for further assistance.
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Several days ago, we blogged about a trend which has seen several cruise ship bartenders be accused of sexual assault and rape of passengers in recent years. One of those cases occurred aboard a Norwegian Cruises ship, and was covered in the New Times.

The victim, who was referred to as Jane Doe in court documents, retained Hickey Law Firm P.A. to file suit against Norwegian last year, alleging that her bartender aboard the M/V Norwegian Sky cruise ship had raped her. As the New Times writes:

“the bartender singled her out as a target as soon as the Bahamas-bound ship set sail. He plied her with alcohol and may have drugged her last drink. Once she became visibly disoriented, he brought her to an isolated storage room that only crew members could access, locked the door, and refused to let her out…”

Later in the article, it was noted that:

“The lawsuit claims that after Jane Doe told Norwegian employees she’d been raped, they took her to her room in a wheelchair and forced her to drink water, instead of taking her to the infirmary to perform an exam with a rape kit. When she was finally taken to the infirmary, she’d already urinated three times. By then, the evidence—which could have proved she’d been raped and her drink was spiked—was tainted.”

This case highlights many important points to remember if you are ever the victim of a cruise ship sexual assault. The first is that you should always demand that a rape kit be performed immediately upon visiting the infirmary, and preferably before washing or using the bathroom.

Another important consideration is to be sure to call the FBI and report the event immediately after seeking medical attention. The cruise company is supposed to help you with placing the call, but do not let them speak on your behalf. As Jack Hickey of Hickey Law Firm, P.A. said in the New Times piece, “They typically treat any passenger who reports things like this like they’re adversaries right away."

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Cruise ships are often the site of sexual assaults, which are most frequently committed by crew members against passengers. Usually cruise companies go to great lengths to down play such incidences, both due to the public relations nightmare such cases present, and due to companies’ legal liabilities. But every so often a case of cruise ship sexual assault is covered by the media, and alerts the world to what really happens aboard cruise ships.

Take a look at the following video:

A crew member threatened to rape this passenger, as he grabbed her. The passenger did the right thing, and complained to management. Stunningly, a manager returned with the perpetrator to the passenger’s cabin, where the crew member admitted to having told the passenger that he wants to rape her. Not surprisingly, the company failed to fire the perpetrator until a local news station followed up on the story, and he was apparently never turned in to the police.

If you, or your loved one, ever find yourself in such a situation, be sure to contact the FBI immediately to report your claim, and save all evidence relating to the assault. When you get back to shore, contact a qualified Maritime attorney to help you ensure that the perpetrator is brought to justice.

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Jill Hammer Malott and Kelly Hammer Lankford, the daughters of two cruise ship passengers who died on a Peruvian Amazon cruise last year, published an article in Forbes magazine earlier this month which criticized the cruise industry.

(Photo courtesy of Forbes.com)

The heartbreaking tale began when their parents, Drs. Larry and Christy Hammer, set off for a cruise of the Peruvian Amazon a year ago with International Expeditions, an eco-tour company. On the first night of the cruise aboard the Amazon Star cruise ship, the Hammers became trapped inside their cabin after the cruise ship caught fire. The Hammers were killed by the blaze.

According to the article, a recently released report by the Peruvian Navy:

“reveals the shocking details of that night. No alarms sounded anywhere on the boat. Electrical equipment supplied by the boat started the fire. The bedding was flammable. The ineffective crew, who lacked certifications and training required by Peruvian law, wasted over 20 precious minutes before extracting our father—but he was already gone.”

The sisters’ mother was extracted alive six minutes after their father, but died hours later.

The article says that the sisters fear that another tragedy like this will happen, as International Expeditions continues to operate as if the tragedy never happen. This, despite the fact that the Peruvian Navy report cited “litany of violations of the nation’s maritime regulations.”

The sisters conclude, after the tragic death of their parents, that “The cruise industry’s priority is clear: Profits over passenger safety.”

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Late last month legislators introduced a bill meant to help strengthen passengers’ protections aboard cruise ships.

The legislation, which was introduced by Representatives Doris Matsui, D-Calif., Ted Poe, R-Texas, and Jim Himes, D-Conn., is meant to provide cruise ship passengers with much needed rights. According to a FoxNews.com article covering the bi-partisan legislation, the bill “strengthens crime reporting and video surveillance requirements, improves medical standards, and holds cruise lines responsible for deaths at sea.”

The last major congressional action relating to the cruise industry was the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act. While that bill did provide passengers with some added protections, such as requiring cruise lines to install peep holes in cabin doors, many complained that the legislation did not go far enough.

Rep. Poe was quoted in the FoxNews.com piece, explaining that “the reality is that crime does not disappear simply because people are on vacation. Unfortunately, American passengers sometimes go missing or become victims of sexual and physical assault while sailing the high seas."

The new bill will:

  • Require cruise ship authorities to notify the FBI within four hours of reported crimes
  • Require cruise authorities to notify the FBI before leaving port, of incidences which occur while ships are in U.S. ports.
  • Install and operate surveillance cameras in all common areas
  • Require cruise companies to keep surveillance video for at least 30 days

The article also says that Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Edward Markey, D-Mass. were planning to submit companion legislation in the Senate.

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Cruise companies go to great lengths to convince prospective passengers that their ships are safe. A common refrain from cruise industry promoters is that cruising is the safest form of travel in the world. For years, this claim had been impossible to verify, as cruise companies benefited from specially crafted crime reporting guidelines which allowed them to avoid reporting crimes that occurred onboard their ships. This obfuscation resulted in passengers not really knowing just how safe or unsafe cruise ships were.

Now that the aforementioned rule has been changed, one of the undeniable facts which has been revealed is that cruise companies have a problem with sexual assault. By far the most prevalent crime aboard cruise ships is sexual assault, and the primary victims are women and children.

Usually, underaged victims are attacked when they are alone. For example, MSC Cruises was sued last September for a case in which one of the company’s crew members allegedly saw a 12-year-old girl going alone into the cabin room that she shared with her grandfather. The employee then allegedly used his master key to enter the room behind the girl, where he brutally raped her.

Though there may have been situations in which children were victimized while in the presence of adults, such cases would be exceedingly rare. So, the question arises: how old should a child be before his or her parents will allow the child to roam the ship freely?

The answer to this question will depend on each child and his or her level of maturity. Generally speaking, teenagers are mature enough to spend some time apart from adults while on the cruise ship, but they should be informed to avoid suspicious people and to report any flirting by crew members immediately. Teens should be given a curfew and it is a good idea to have them check in with adults periodically.

As can be seen in the above example, some crew members are simply vicious savages who will prey on children when given the chance. It is the cruise company’s responsibility to provide a safe environment for its passengers and ensure that its employees do the same.

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A woman has filed suit against Carnival Cruise Lines for an alleged sexual assault, which she claims to have happened on one of the company’s ships.

The plaintiff, a resident of South Carolina, claims that she was sexually assaulted aboard the Carnival Victory in March. The woman was reportedly able to identify the alleged perpetrator in a photograph, but claims that Carnival has been less than helpful with the investigation.

Many cruise ship sexual assault victims have reported that cruise companies frustrate their efforts after they report sexual abuse claims. For example, in 2013 a Disney Cruises crew member was caught on camera kissing an underaged girl. Though the girl’s guardians reported the crime to ship authorities right away, the cruise line waited until the ship had sailed out of Florida waters to report the incident. This prevented Florida law enforcement from detaining the suspect. The perpetrator was later released by the cruise company at his home country.

Because of the above reasons, it is extremely important that, if you or your loved one are ever a victim of a cruise ship sexual assault, you immediately have a rape kit performed if applicable. In all circumstances, you should call the FBI from the ship and report the incident. Do not allow the cruise company to convince you to wait, and do not allow them to speak to the authorities for you.

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