The 15-year-old says she was targeted on Boxing Day in 2015 on the Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas ship shortly after boarding.
The allegation is the latest to rock the cruise ship industry after a series of reports of sexual assaults and alleged negligence by ship crews.
According to a lawsuit filed in Florida, she became separated from her family, two sisters and grandparents, and was plied with alcohol by a group of around 12 adult male passengers in the lounge.
She became “obviously drunk, disoriented and unstable” and the men then led her to a cabin where they “brutally assaulted and gang raped her”.
The girl – who has been identified only as KT for legal reasons – claims that multiple cruise staff witnessed that the girl was drunk but “did nothing to protect her”.
The suit was first filed in 2016 but was dismissed for failing to state a claim, as the Royal Caribbean argued it was unforeseeable to the staff that a guest could be raped under the circumstances described.
She appealed the decision which resulting the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal reversing their decision and reinstating the negligence suit.
The court found KT had indeed sufficiently alleged the cruise company had breached its “duty of care” to the young woman.
Her complaint alleged that the company did not warn of the increased risk of sex attacks on the vessels, the result of which caused the assault.
KT was “directly and proximately caused to be sexually assaulted and/or physically battered and/or gang raped”.
Cruise passengers are also at higher risk of crime and injury onboard due to the “copious quantities” of alcohol on-board, according to the lawsuit, but little is done to protect them.
The scope of Royal Caribbean’s duty to protect its passengers is informed, if not defined, by its knowledge of the dangers they face on-board,“ the appeals court found.
Chief Judge Ed Carnes stated: “Publicly available data reinforces the allegations in the complaint that Royal Caribbean knew or should have known about the danger of sexual assault aboard its cruise ships.”
A Royal Caribbean spokesperson told news.com.au that while they are unable to comment on pending litigation, “we do take this allegation very seriously”.
“The safety and security of our guests is our top priority,” the spokesperson added.