ORLANDO, Fla. - The Vermont parents of a 3-year-old girl have filed a $20 million lawsuit against Disney Cruise Line after claiming another passenger sexually assaulted their child and that the cruise staff did nothing.
FOX Television Stations obtained a copy of the lawsuit filed Sept. 22 in the U.S. District Court, Middle District of Florida, Orlando division.
The lawsuit said the parents, listed as John and Jane Doe, and their minor child, listed as R.V., took part in a seven-day cruise in January 2020. The parents enrolled their toddler in the Disney cruise ship’s Oceaneer Club daycare facility.
The lawsuit alleged that on Jan. 9, R.V. was in a small room with seven other children when she was "physically restrained and sexually assaulted by a significantly older child, who was also a passenger on the cruise."
Michael A. Winkleman, the attorney representing the parents, told FOX Television Stations that CCTV shows the toddler lying down with an older child, approximately 10 years old and dressed as "Princess Leia." He said CCTV captured the older child’s right arm appearing to be "completely wrapped around the smaller child, pinning her down" and that her hand can be seen in the toddler’s private areas.
The parents further alleged that their child was "excessively groped" while cruise staff entered the room but failed to recognize what was happening. The parents also alleged that the incident happened in plain view in front of a Disney crew member and that other staff members failed to notify the parents of the assault.
Court documents did not explain how the parents learned of the alleged sexual assault.
The parents are suing the company for five counts of negligence against Magical Cruise Company, another name for Disney Cruise Line.
"This is a parent’s worst nightmare," Winkleman said. "Any parent would reasonably think it was safe to leave their child in the care of Disney workers, but for an assault like this to occur when Disney crewmembers are supposed to be taking care of the child is unthinkable. The victim’s parents filed this case in order to seek justice and accountability and to raise awareness about the hidden dangers of sexual assaults on cruise ships."
A summons was issued to Margaret C. Giacalone, the Magical Cruise Company’s Registered Agent, to appear in court as a result of the lawsuit.
"This lawsuit is wholly without merit," a Disney spokesperson said in a statement to FOX Television Stations Monday. "The plaintiffs’ first allegations were reported to the FBI, and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office investigated them and determined them to be unfounded. The plaintiffs have now come back with a different story, which is equally unfounded, that another young female child acted inappropriately with their child. We will vigorously defend this case in court."
This story was reported from Los Angeles.