Articles Tagged with sexual assault lawyer

Do rideshare companies do enough to protect drivers and passengers from sexual assault in Florida and beyond? According to hundreds of pending civil sexual assault lawsuits around the country against companies like Lyft and Uber, the answer is a resounding: No. South Florida sexual assault lawyer

Despite the fact that the entire business model of rideshare companies centers on the idea that they provide a safe way home, more than a few users say the experience ends up being anything but safe.

If you are attacked or have been sexual assaulted as a passenger in a South Florida rideshare, our dedicated West Palm Beach sexual assault attorneys can help you identify your legal options and navigate your next steps. Part of what complicates these claims are that the drivers are not considered “employees” but rather “independent contractors.” This designation gives companies some room to deny vicarious liability for the negligent or criminal actions perpetuated by drivers for the app. However, it doesn’t mean there’s no chance they’ll have to answer for safety deficits that result in harm.

We recognize that going up against a large company like Uber or Lyft can seem daunting. But with an experienced civil trial lawyer, civil litigation can be a powerful tool for pursuing accountability as well as meaningful policy changes that will hopefully make everyone safer.

Pending Sexual Assault Cases Against Rideshare Companies

At least 17 sexual assault lawsuits involving drivers and passengers alike are pending against Lyft, according to NPR. Claimants say they were harassed, assaulted, and battered. Yet when they reported the incidents to the rideshare company, the response was lackluster. Rideshare reps reportedly apologized for what happened, gave complainants refunds, and promised to suspend the accounts of the drivers or passengers involved. Some drivers who reported being sexually assaulted by passengers said the company offered them a few hundred dollars. However, there was no follow-up afterward.

Lawyers representing the victims say longtime rideshare company practice is to withhold user information – even in the event of a reported crime – unless there is a court order specifically compelling it. Plaintiff attorneys say this significantly delays or stymies criminal investigations and requests for civil orders of protection. They insist rideshares should go the extra mile to not only share user information to authorities when a sexual assault is reported, but also install cameras or audio recorders in vehicles that use the app. Such recordings could be used as evidence in a criminal case, but beyond that, hopefully would serve as a strong deterrent. Continue reading

The sudden trauma of a South Florida cruise ship sexual assault can leave survivors feeling stunned, shaken, and unsure of their next steps.Florida cruise ship sexual assault lawyer

As longtime Palm Beach sexual abuse assault attorneys, we are committed to helping survivors and their families pick up the pieces and pursue justice and accountability through civil litigation. This is separate from any criminal investigation or case that may be ongoing. The purpose of civil litigation in these cases is typically to hold accountable any parties who failed in their duty to protect the victim.

A number of recent high-profile cruise ship sexual assault cases have highlighted both the seriousness and unfortunate prevalence of these incidents.

Recently, a federal jury in South Florida awarded a sexual assault survivor more than $10 million after her rape by a Carnival Cruise Line crew member. Although the jury did not find the cruise line was negligent, maritime law allows defendant cruise lines in civil sexual assault cases involving employees to be held strictly liable. Strict liability does not require proof of negligence by a defendant. (This is different than state-level civil sexual assault cases, which typically require proof that the company/defendant failed in some duty of care owed to the plaintiff. This usually involves a failure to maintain a safe premises, negligent hiring/background checks, or inadequate supervision.)

The incident that recently led to the $10 million verdict occurred in 2018 and involved a crew member. He claimed the encounter was consensual, but was fired for violating the cruise line’s policy forbidding fraternization with patrons. The FBI did not pursue criminal charges against him, but the federal jury in the civil case found that he did sexually assault her.

Cruise Ship Sexual Assault Statistics

USA Today recently reported that, per U.S. Department of Transportation figures, more than 100 allegations of cruise ship sexual assaults involving ships embarking/disembarking in the U.S. were reported in 2019. The year before, there were 82. New figures haven’t been posted since pandemic-related shutdowns stymied the industry, which is just now starting to regain steam.

Rape crises experts say that factors impacting the high numbers of cruise ship sexual assaults include an abundance of alcohol, close quarters, and a lack of independent law enforcement. Of course, as our Palm Beach civil trial lawyers can explain, cruise ships do have security. However, these are not public law enforcement agencies. They’re private companies hired by the cruise ships.

Survivors of Florida Cruise Ship Sexual Assault Should Seek Immediate Legal Counsel

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A survivor of a brutal rape and beating recently prevailed in her South Florida sexual assault lawsuit against the Miami hotel where the attack occurred and its security company, settling for $16 million for their failure to protect her.Florida hotel sexual assault lawyer

According to Local 10 News, 67-year-old woman, a tourist who was staying at the hotel with her husband last July, was beaten, strangled, choked, and forced to perform oral sex on her 22-year-old attacker in a vicious assault that took place in an open hallway and elevator. (The husband, also, was apparently beaten, pushed to the ground, and bitten by the man.) Despite her repeated screams and cries, none of the hotel staffers intervened. The man then reportedly tried to rape the woman, but was finally stopped when Miami-Dade police officers arrived on scene and arrested him. The attack left the victim with life-threatening injuries, including brain bleeding, collapsed lungs, broken ribs, and traumatic brain injury. After she was discovered, she was rushed to the hospital, where she underwent an 8-hour surgery to save her life.

The alleged attacker is still facing charges of sexual battery, felony battery, assault, and kidnapping.

As our South Florida sexual assault lawyers understand, the investigation into the liability of both the hotel and the security company revealed fairly damning evidence. The beating and sexual assault reportedly took place in the middle of an open hallway for 10 full minutes.

Although the hotel and security company deny any wrongdoing, the latter agreed to settle her claims for $5 million and the former for $11 million, respectively. In the aftermath of the incident, both the hotel and the security company have made improvements to security policy and procedure.

How Can a Hotel or Other Third Parties be Liable for Rape?

It’s not clear from news reports whether the attacker was a guest at the hotel, an employee, or a trespasser. There likely is no evidence that the third-party defendants (hotel and security company) had any prior knowledge of the defendant’s intent or intentionally helped him to carry out his alleged crimes. So how is that they can be held legally responsible? Continue reading

In Florida, as well as in every other state, it is an unlawful civil rights violation for guards or staff to engage in sexual relations with prisoners. In this dynamic, no sexual encounter can be considered consensual because prisoners cannot legally consent to sex with someone who has authority over them. It’s further understood that refusal invites risk of retaliation. jail-300x200

Unfortunately, the reality is sexual assaults occur far too often in prisons. Some callously view it as “part of the punishment,” but that is unequivocally false. As our South Florida sexual assault lawyers can explain, it can be grounds for civil litigation – against the guards, staff and the prison itself. Claims against government agents and agencies are not easy cases, but they can be successful. Accountability in these matters not only brings justice for victims, but helps reduce the chances that future inmates will be preyed upon in the same way.

Recently, the U.S Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division concluded an investigation into the conditions at Lowell Correctional Institution in Ocala, Florida, finding reasonable cause of Eighth Amendment violations for failure to protect prisoners from sexual abuse and assault by the staff. This is an express violation of provisions of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act of 1980, a federal statute that protects the civil rights of those in correctional facilities, nursing homes, mental health facilities and institutions for those with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

Officials at prisons have a constitutional responsibility to protect prisoners from harm. Prosecutors for the DOJ say that incarcerated women at the Florida prison were frequent victims of sexual abuse by prison staff. Further, women were discouraged from reporting the abuse and some investigations were even handled by the abusers themselves. As reported by Courthouse News, there were numerous documented cases of sexual coercion and rape, as well as reports of daily sexual harassment, groping and actions like watching inmates shower and use the toilet. Threats of solitary confinement or withholding basic necessities reportedly occurred when inmates objected. Some inmates were allegedly beaten and physically assaulted when they objected. Continue reading

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