$940,000 – Sexual Assault

Award Amount: $940,000

Admiralty

Jones ActSexual Assault

Amount of settlement: $940,000

Injuries alleged: Pain and suffering, mental anguish from sexual assault

Name of case: Withheld

Court/case#: Withheld

Tried before judge or jury: N/A (settled)

Amount of settlements: $940,000

Date: January 2006

Attorneys for plaintiff: Carolyn M. Latti and David F. Anderson, Latti & Anderson LLP, Boston

Attorneys for defendant: Withheld

On the plaintiff’s first day of work as the assistant hotel manager on a cruise vessel, she was allegedly sexually assaulted by the vessel’s chef in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

The plaintiff had gone to bed early that night, and, before going to sleep, had locked her door and taken medication in order to help her sleep. In the morning early hours, on two separate occasions, the chef, who was intoxicated, used a master key given to him by other crew members, went into the plaintiff’s room and sexually assaulted her.

During the first attack, the plaintiff woke up and found the chef standing by the bed without clothing. The plaintiff realized that, although she had gone to bed with shorts on, she did not have them when she awoke. The chef told the plaintiff that they had just had sex. The plaintiff kicked the chef out of her room and searched for the captain to tell him what had occurred. When she could not find the captain, she returned to her cabin, locked her door and went back to sleep, planning to inform the captain in the morning.

The chef then entered the plaintiff’s room again with the master key and a struggle ensued. The chef grabbed the plaintiff’s head and hair, slammed her head against the wall, pinned both of her arms behind her back and told her that she could have it the easy way or the hard way. The plaintiff managed to push the chef off, escape and find the captain to inform him. The chef was arrested and removed from the vessel; he pled guilty to unlawful sexual conduct and aggravated criminal trespassing and was incarcerated.

The plaintiff brought suit under the Jones Act for negligence and general maritime law for unseaworthiness as a result of sexual assault. The plaintiff alleged that under maritime law, the defendant failed to provide a vessel and/or crew reasonably fit for its intended purpose.

The plaintiff further alleged that the defendant was negligent in that the defendant knew of the chef’s past behavior and conduct in which he treated men and women poorly, sexually harassed women and had other incidents of intoxication which put the crew and passengers in danger, and the defendant failed to take measures to ensure the safety of the crew and prevent the plaintiff’s assault.

The defendant was also allegedly negligent in failing to have proper security and failing to have proper security and failing to have any policy regarding the loaning out of the master key.

The plaintiff presented a damage claim for pain and suffering and mental anguish. At trial, the plaintiff intended to introduce evidence without expert testimony on how the sexual assault affected her, her emotional injuries, distress and the negative emotions she had as a result of the sexual assault.

The defendant alleged that a sexual assault did not occur, rather they were “sexual advances” by the chef, and that the fears the plaintiff experienced were based on past medical conditions.

The plaintiff blocked the defendant from obtaining her past medical records.

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