Woman assaulted on cruise sues Holland America

AP News
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Posted: Jun 01, 2015 11:14 PM

SEATTLE (AP) — A woman who was assaulted on a cruise ship has filed a federal lawsuit against Holland America claiming it fails to oversee its workers and provide adequate security.

The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle claims the woman had gone to bed on the night of Feb. 13, 2014, when a room service attendant attacked her after hiding in her cabin.

When she resisted, the attacker beat her up and tried to throw her overboard, the lawsuit says.

It also claims the cruise line provides its room service attendants with master keys to cabins but doesn't properly screen them. In addition, it says people onboard get the front desk, not security, when they call 911.

The ship was off the coast of Honduras at the time of the attack. The cruise was part of a roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Holland America, which bases its U.S. operations in Seattle, responded with a statement saying passenger safety is their top priority and to the knowledge of company official, nothing like it had happened in the firm's 142-year history.

"We are terribly saddened that this event occurred," said spokeswoman Sally Andrews. "Our thoughts, prayers and support remain with the victim and we are committed to a fair and collaborative resolution of this tragic event. It is right that justice prevailed and the perpetrator was sentenced accordingly."

John Hickey, a lawyer for the victim, said the attack was a woman's worst nightmare. The woman, who is from Michigan, was not named in the suit.

The worker pounced on the woman and used heavy objects in the room to hit her on the head and a telephone cord to strangle her, Hickey said.

The attack lasted more than 45 minutes, he said. When she finally broke out of the room, she ran into other passengers who had congregated in the hallway in response to her screams, he said. Her "face and arms were covered with blood, and she was half-naked," he said.

Hickey said the attacker, Ketut Pujayasa, was arrested and charged in U.S. District Court in Miami. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The lawsuit claims there is a delay in security personnel response because of Holland America's 911 procedures.

When cruise personnel finally arrived outside the cabin, it was a front desk worker who did not have a key to the cabin, Hickey said.

"That is, Holland America allowed the perpetrator, a junior room service attendant, who beat and attempted to murder the passenger, to have more access to room keys and thus to cabins than the person responding to an emergency onboard," Hickey said.

The lawsuit is seeking unspecified punitive and compensatory damages.

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