UPDATE: The original post incorrectly identified the yacht make and length.
By Dorie Cox
A jury awarded a woman $70 million after she was raped on board a 150-foot Feadship yacht in Fort Lauderdale in 2015, noting the owner was negligent in not providing a safe work environment.
The woman, who is not being named because of the nature of the incident, was living and working aboard M/Y Endless Summer on Feb. 25, 2015, when Deckhand Rafal Dowgwillowicz-Nowicki returned to the yacht intoxicated, forced his way into her cabin and raped her, according to court records.
Dowgwillowicz-Nowicki, was arrested and served time in jail. He has since been released and was deported to Poland.
In February 2016, the woman sued the owner of the yacht, Island Girl Ltd., under the Jones Act on charges of negligence, unseaworthiness, and that she was denied maintenance and cure by the vessel after the attack.
At the time of the rape, the yacht was at Universal Marine Center in Fort Lauderdale, and the woman’s original lawsuit included the project manager at the time. The manager was later dismissed as a defendant, leaving Island Girl as the sole defendant.
According to the verdict issued on Monday (Jan. 29), the jury found that the woman was “acting as a crew of a vessel in navigation” and that Island Girl was negligent in “failing to adopt and enforce an alcohol control policy” and “failing to determine the sobriety and health of the crew before the crew boarded the vessel,” and that the vessel was unseaworthy because of an “inadequate security system” and “a non-functioning telecommunications system which made it impossible for [the woman] to call for help,” among other reasons.
Attorneys for the owner had denied the claims, instead claiming the woman “failed to exercise ordinary care, caution or prudence for her own welfare,” according to court records.
Editor Dorie Cox is working on a broader story about what this verdict means to the yachting industry. To share your thoughts, email her at email@example.com or call her at 305-393-3134.
Court documents describe jury award for damages as $70,000 for net lost wages to date of trial and $4.2 million for future wages; $3,550 for medical expenses to the date of the trial and $286,500 for future; $6 million for “pain and suffering, mental or emotional anguish, inconvenience, discomfort and loss of capacity for enjoyment” to the date of the trial and $60 million for the future. The total awarded on Jan. 30 were $70,560,050.
Attorneys for the woman moved to arrest the vessel on Jan. 31, which federal marshals did on Feb. 2. It is now in the custody of Bradford Marine, a shipyard on the New River in Fort Lauderdale.
Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton. Comment below: