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Carnival Must Face Suit by the Family of Slain Passenger

Carnival Corp. must face a lawsuit brought by the family of a cruise ship passenger who was fatally shot while ashore in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a U.S. appeals court ruled in reinstating the suit dismissed by a lower court.

In July 2010, Liz Marie Perez Chaparro, 15, a passenger on Carnival’s M/V Victory, took a day trip with her family to Coki Beach on the island of St. Thomas, according to the family’s lawsuit filed in Miami.

On their way back from the beach, Chaparro, her parents and brother rode in an open-air bus past a funeral for a gang member, according to the complaint. While the bus was stuck in traffic, “gang-related retaliatory violence” erupted at the funeral and Chaparro was fatally shot, the suit alleges.

Her family members claimed a Carnival employee encouraged them to visit Coki Beach and that the company failed to warn passengers of the crime problem on St. Thomas. Carnival claimed it has no duty to warn passengers, and that Chaparro’s death couldn’t have been predicted.

“The facts alleged in the complaint are plausible and raise a reasonable expectation that discovery could supply additional proof of Carnival’s liability,” the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta ruled today.

Supreme Court

The appeals court cited a 1959 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that stated “a ship owner owes the duty of exercising reasonable care towards those lawfully aboard the vessel who are not members of the crew.”

Vance Gulliksen, a spokesman for Miami-based Carnival, said the company doesn’t typically comment on pending litigation.

The lower court case is Chaparro v. Carnival Corp., 11-cv-21890 U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (Miami). The appeals court case is 11-14047, 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (Atlanta).

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