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Judge Rules That Family Can Sue Cruise Line for Toddler Death


Royal Carribean lost a major decision just recently after a federal judge ruled that the family of Chloe Wiegand could move for with their lawsuit against the cruise line. Royal Carribean had prevented “evidence” that the grandfather, who was charged with negligent homicide in his granddaughter’s death, knew that the window ledge that he had placed Chloe on had an open window. The family maintains that Salvatore Anello only placed his granddaughter on the ledge because she loved banging on the glass at her brother’s hockey games. Moments later, the toddler fell to her death leaving the family shattered.

They filed a lawsuit against Royal Carribean Cruises alleging that they had violated their own safety protocols by keeping one of the windows in a child’s play area open. Anello says that due to vision problems, he was unable to see that the window was opened.

While everyone can sympathize with the family, it will be an uphill battle for the plaintiffs to convince a jury that Royal Carribean was more responsible for Chloe’s death than her grandfather. While they don’t have to (legally) to recover money from the cruise line for the negligence that they contributed, entering into a lawsuit in which a jury could assign some, or even a majority of the blame, to a distraught and grieving grandfather is probably not what they’re hoping for out of this lawsuit.

Analyzing the Decision 

The move to dismiss the lawsuit was not unexpected. Even the most ironclad lawsuits field motions to dismiss by aggressive civil defense attorneys. The reasoning was not an indictment of Royal Carribean’s defense nor was it an endorsement of the merits of the plaintiff’s lawsuits. The judge only commented that until the discovery process has been completed, there’s no good reason to dismiss the lawsuit.

While the decision is a victory for the plaintiffs, because they can still move forward with their lawsuit, they still have an uphill battle to produce evidence that Royal Carribean contributed a significant amount of negligence for this incident.

What are the Merits of the Plaintiff’s Case? 

The plaintiffs are in the position of needing to prove that Royal Carribean contributed some form of negligence to the toddler’s death. Fundamentally, this will come under all the same rules as a premises liability case. The plaintiffs will need to show that Royal Carribean left a dangerous condition on their premises that led to the death of the toddler.

In all premises liability suits, the defense has the option of arguing that the danger was clear and obvious and had the plaintiff been paying attention, they wouldn’t have injured themselves or anyone else. This is the hurdle that the plaintiffs must overcome. It will help their case if Royal Carribean has a policy stating that all windows in the child’s play area should be shut at all times.

Talk to a Cruise Ship Injury Attorney Today 

If you’ve been injured aboard a cruise ship, Miami admiralty & maritime attorney Michael F. Guilford can help you file your claim and hold the cruise line accountable for their negligence. Call today for a free consultation.




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  • American Association for Justice

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Michael F. Guilford, P.A.

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