Assaulted Oakland County woman sues Holland America

Martha Bellisle
Associated Press

Seattle — An Oakland County, Michigan, woman who was assaulted on a cruise ship has filed a federal lawsuit against Holland America, claiming it fails to oversee its workers or 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 who had been hiding in her cabin attacked her. When she resisted, the attacker beat her up and tried to throw her overboard.

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

Holland America responded Monday with a statement saying to their knowledge, nothing like this has happened in the company’s 142-year history and said passenger safety is their top priority.

“We are terribly saddened that this event occurred,” spokeswoman Sally Andrews said. “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, the woman’s lawyer, said the attack was “a woman’s worst nightmare.” The woman was not named but instead was identified as “Jane Doe” in the suit. After the worker pounced on her, he used heavy objects in the room to hit her on the head and used 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.

The lawsuit claims there was a delay in the response by security personnel 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.