The family of a teenage girl killed by gunfire during a Carnival Cruise Lines port stop in the U.S. Virgin Islands can move forward with a suit against the cruise line, an appeals court said.
The opinion, issued last week by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, came more than a year after the lawsuit was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham and more than two years after 14-year-old Liz Marie Perez Chaparro was shot to death on an open-air bus.
In the suit, filed in May 2011, the teen’s parents and brother accused Miami-based Carnival Corp. of negligence for failing to warn passengers about violence at one of its port stops, St. Thomas.
According to the suit, an employee recommended the Coki Beach area to Liz Marie’s father, Ceferino Perez, and brother, Amilkar Perez Chaparro, as he served them drinks on the first night of their cruise aboard the Carnival Victory. The cruise departed from San Juan, Puerto Rico on July 11, 2010.
The family took the employee’s advice the next day and caught an open-air bus — not a Carnival-sponsored excursion — back to the ship after a day ashore. The bus got stuck in traffic from the nearby funeral of a gang member; as it crawled by the cemetery, shots from a warring gang erupted.
Liz Marie was hit in the abdomen. She was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the hospital, despite her father’s attempts to perform CPR as the bus driver sped to get her to medical care.
The complaint alleges that the teen’s death was due in part to Carnival’s “negligent failure to investigate, and or screen its ports of call” and “its failure to warn [the family] of known criminal danger in St. Thomas, and in particular in the Coki Beach area.”
A Carnival spokeswoman said the cruise line could not comment because of the pending litigation.
But in the cruise giant’s motion to dismiss the suit, lawyers argued that Carnival could not be expected to know about every potential danger at every port of call.
“The events on the road from Coki Beach were tragic and sad,” the motion said. “They were, though, clearly unforeseeable and sudden.”
But in the appeals court’s opinion, the three-judge panel said that argument would be more appropriate after discovery was taken or at trial.
And, the judges said: “The facts alleged in the complaint are plausible and raise a reasonable expectation that discovery could supply additional proof of Carnival’s liability.”