(Posted from Law360)
By Brett Barrouquere
Law360 (September 29, 2021, 4:48 PM EDT) — A Florida state judge on Wednesday rejected Royal Caribbean’s efforts to end a worker’s claim that staff behaved outrageously and without regard for her feelings after she reported a sexual assault.
Judge Alan Fine of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit said there are numerous factual issues about the woman’s intentional infliction of emotional distress claims that need to be sorted out by a jury, including the alleged acts committed by Royal Caribbean staff.
The court can’t decide the credibility of testimony from the female worker, identified only as Jane Doe in court records, and other witnesses, particularly since the testimony came in depositions, Judge Fine said in a three-page decision.
“This court cannot disregard the plaintiff’s testimony in this case,” Judge Fine said. “The plaintiff’s testimony about the acts committed by the defendant, through its employees, requires that this case be submitted to a jury.”
Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines Ltd. had sought to end the claim, saying that the behavior in question does not meet the legal definition of outrageous conduct and that Jane Doe had raised the allegations in a parallel arbitration proceeding focused on the assault itself.
Jane Doe sued Royal Caribbean in 2017, saying a fellow member of the ship’s staff attacked and sexually assaulted her in her cabin. She also said the ship’s staff blamed her for being attacked because she allowed a man into her cabin. She said that the ship’s staff advised her not to press charges in the Bahamas, near where the ship was at the time, and that the medical staff downplayed the incident, telling her that, as a survivor of more than one sexual assault, “she should get over the rape quickly.”
Doe’s attorney Lisa Goodman of the Hickey Law Firm PA said during a hearing in August that Doe was “violently raped” but forced to continue working as long as she remained on the ship.
Royal Caribbean’s attorney Darren W. Friedman of Foreman Friedman PA said in August that Jane Doe’s claims are refuted by objective evidence and that, although the staff’s comments and behavior may have been improper or rude, they did not violate a legal standard.
During the August hearing, Judge Fine said jurors would be given context for the case but only allowed to consider how staff aboard the ship behaved toward Jane Doe after the assault took place in 2015.
Counsel for the parties did not immediately return messages seeking comment Wednesday. Jane Doe is represented by John H. Hickey and Lisa C. Goodman of the Hickey Law Firm PA. Royal Caribbean is represented by Darren W. Friedman and Avi Shoham of Foreman Friedman PA.
The case is Jane Doe v. Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD et al., case number 2017-029545, in the Circuit Court of the 11th Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Florida.
–Editing by Dave Trumbore.
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