A lawsuit was filed on January 5, 2018 against Norwegian Cruise Lines by Iowa Doctor Jane Doe Individually and as Parents and Natural Guardians of H.P., a Minor Child. The lawsuit filed alleges that on Thursday, February 16, 2017, her daughter H.P., age 12, was sexually assaulted in her Norwegian Escape cruise ship cabin #15858 (see video below) by cabin steward, Rajkmar Panneer Selvam, 30, from India.
The complaint alleges the following, “NCL Escape left the Port of Miami on February 11, 2017, on a one week, Saturday-to-Saturday cruise. The incident occurred on or about Thursday, February 16, 2017 at approximately 1:00 p.m. The incident occurred on the vessel NCL Escape, a ship in navigable waters while the Plaintiffs were passengers aboard. Accordingly, Plaintiffs’ claims are governed by General Maritime Law Further, the cruise line markets to families with minor children and teenagers.
NCL makes representations online and in other materials about teen friendly and family friendly cruise ships. On its website, the cruise line describes its “splash academy for kids” and invites parents to rely on the cruise line to provide a safe environment for children, including children that are 12-years old. NCL’s website also advertised in part that “[k]ids of all ages can find their happy place thanks to our complimentary youth programs – Splash Academy and Entourage. Alongside our well-trained staff, your children will experience a wide range of exciting activities with kids and teens their own age. And while they are having the time of their lives, you can too, knowing they’re in a safe and supervised environment.” . NCL also states on its website: “[e]xperience an unforgettable family vacation with Norwegian Cruise Line. From dodgeball to cupcake decorating, there are lots of activities all over our ships for every age group. Plus, kids can learn to juggle at Circus School in Splash Academy and teens have the coolest themed parties in Entourage – our complimentary youth programs. These are moments you’ll remember.” NCL further encourages families with minor children by stating on their website “[w]hen families cruise with Norwegian, they get more choices. More unforgettable moments. More opportunities to discover something new. Superior dining. Spectacular entertainment. Thrilling onboard activities. Everything you could want in a vacation. And more.”
“Even though NCL markets heavily to families with children, the cruise line does not take reasonable measures to make those children safe in their cabins. The cruise line allows its crew members access to cabins with families and children which crew members have not been properly screened, trained, or monitored, which crew members are young men away from their families for months at a time, and which crew members are from developing countries which do not have the infrastructure to provide full and proper background information on prospective hires.
The cruise line typically hires young men from developing countries or from countries where the economy is bleak, and the unemployment rate is high. The cruise line pays these young men a minimal wage below the wage which would be required if it hired Americans for the same job. NCL places these young men on the ship for months at a time and require them to work 7 days a week for 12 to 14 hours a day, all in the name of saving money. These young men are away from their families and spouses and significant others for months at a time while they live and work onboard the ships.
And, the cruise line does little or nothing to screen these young men before they are hired, to train the young men when they are hired, or to monitor the activities of these young men after they are hired. For background checks, the cruise line utilizes agents or “hiring partners” in these countries and relies on the “hiring partners” in the developing country to obtain background information on these candidates. But as the cruise line knows from years of hiring people from these developing countries, the investigation into the background and history of the prospective crewmember in these countries, because of the lack of infrastructure, cannot be complete or verified.
NCL then fails reasonably under these circumstances to screen, examine, and test the applicants for on board jobs which involve a high level of contact with the public and minor children. The cruise line also fails to train these crewmembers well and then fails to monitor the crewmembers. NCL’s failure to select, train, and control its male crewmembers and/or officers to stay away from female and minor children passengers allows and/or promotes improper conduct by its crewmembers toward passengers including sexual assault, sexual battery, and sexual abuse.
Despite the representations about family accommodations and activities and despite the lack of proper screening, training, and monitoring of the onboard personnel, NCL fails to utilize a proper level of technology, i.e., security cameras and monitoring, and proper security procedures to provide a safe environment to its passengers.
In fact, NCL provides its cabin stewards with a master key to the passengers’ cabins for them to clean the passenger cabins on a daily basis. NCL provides its crewmembers a master key knowing it has rented the cabins to families with minor children and knowing that it has done little to nothing to screen these young men before they are hired, to train the young men when they are hired, or to monitor the activities of these young men after they have been hired. And NCL provided crewmember Selvam a master key to JOHN DOE, JANE DOE and H.P.’s cabin so that he could gain access into the cabin NCL assigned to H.P. and her family.
On the second to last day of the cruise, February 16, 2017, at approximately 1:00 p.m., H.P. was napping in her cabin. She awoke to the feeling of someone rubbing inside of her shorts along her upper right leg”[. . . sexual assault details . . .] ” H.P. opened her eyes and sat up and saw NCL’s crewmember Selvam standing by her bed. H.P. recognized Selvam because he was the crewmember NCL had assigned as the cabin steward to the Plaintiffs’ cabin. Selvam asked H.P. if she would like him to clean her cabin. H.P. was in shock and frightened and mumbled “no.” Selvam left the cabin. H.P. immediately got out of bed and went into the adjoining cabin to find her family and friends. Instead, H. P. encountered Selvam again. Selvam again asked H.P. if she would like her room cleaned; this time H.P. said yes. Selvam then went back into H.P.’s room. H.P. ran out of the cabin and immediately reported the incident to her parents and the cruise line.”
According to a criminal investigation that followed, Selvam was confined by the vessel’s captain until the ship docked. At that point, Norwegian informed the Federal Investigation Bureau of the incident and both Selvam and the child were interviewed.
Security footage provided by the cruise line to the FBI confirmed the general timeline of the girl’s statements, according to the criminal complaint.
Though Selvam first said he touched her on the shoulder, he later acknowledged that “he did, in fact, touch her buttocks and pubic region with his hand, skin to skin, while the child was sleeping on the bed”.
This case went to a jury trial in Miami and Selvam was found not guilty. The civil suit was then filed.
- Doe v Norwegian Cruise Line (pdf)
- Norwegian Escape Cruise Ship Tracker
- Norwegian Escape Cruise Ship Camera
Video: Norwegian escape aft balcony 15882 cabin tour (similar cabin – same deck)