Court Reinstates Lawsuit In Which Toddler Fell To Her Death
In July of 2019, an 18-month-old toddler fell to her death through an open window in the play area of a Royal Caribbean vessel. Her grandfather was blamed for the death and later pleaded guilty to manslaughter for allowing the girl to sit on the ledge. The grandfather claimed that he didn’t realize that the window was open as none of the other windows in the play area were open at the time. The family sued Royal Caribbean stating that they negligently left the window open in the play area contributing to the death of the child. Royal Caribbean fought the allegations and the case was dismissed in 2021. Royal Caribbean argued that they could not have foreseen that the grandfather would place the child on the ledge.
The grandfather contended that the baby liked to bang on the glass at her brother’s hockey games. So, he was lifting her to the ledge so that she could bang on the class. Tragically, he did not realize that there was no glass in that window and let go of the child who fell to her death. The family wants Royal Caribbean to be responsible for failing to safeguard the children’s play area, but the cruise company remains steadfast in its efforts to defeat the lawsuit. They claim that the open window was an open and obvious danger and that the grandfather should have known better. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit and the family appealed.
A three-judge panel ruled that there was a genuine issue of fact that should be reached by a jury. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the dismissal of the lawsuit and ruled that a jury should decide whether or not Royal Caribbean had foreknowledge of the dangers associated with open windows. The plaintiffs contend that the play area was unreasonably dangerous, but the fact that the grandfather lifted the toddler to the ledge will work against them in this case.
The grandfather was sentenced to three years probation after being charged with negligent homicide. Initially, the grandfather refused to plead guilty to the charges but did so later to avoid potential jail time. Royal Caribbean argued that the grandfather knew that the window was open after he leaned outside of it. There was surveillance footage of the area that appears to show that the grandfather is leaning outside the window. This footage will become a part of the new trial.
Royal Caribbean looks poised to fight the case on the aforementioned grounds. The family wants to move forward with their allegations. It remains unclear what verdict a jury will return, but the criminal case against the grandfather coupled with the surveillance footage of him leaning out the window will cause issues for the plaintiffs. Nonetheless, they believe that Royal Caribbean created an unreasonably dangerous play area by keeping one window open.
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