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Woman raped on yacht wins $70 million verdict against owner

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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 dorie@the-triton.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:

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About Dorie Cox

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton.

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9 thoughts on “Woman raped on yacht wins $70 million verdict against owner

  1. Marusha Ison

    100 percent agree with this. I hope that more people come forward and this creates a positive change in the yachting industry. So that woman are respected and not disregarded.

  2. P. Sonnenberg

    I am a woman and can understand the danger she was in but this kind of money will likely open the door to those fortune hunters that will take advantage of yacht owners. I can see this going out of control. Dont be surprised if more stories come to surface with palms open looking for monetary compensation. This is a slippery slope.

  3. PhilIveysOnkel

    Nuts!
    Never heard of a rape victim getting 70 Million USD. She would have needed to work another 535 years to earn that money. Just shows how sick and scrupulous the US Justice System is.

    But then, how can you employ people from former Eastern Europe…

  4. Lisa Overing

    Juries and judges usually get it right and justice prevails. However, I agree with P. Sonnenberg: this is a slippery slope as this verdict may incite con artists to fake a claim for rape. Recent tort reform in Ohio capped rape victim damages for trauma, abuse and disfigurement to victims at $250,000 (unless the victim is a minor). Perhaps we will see more crew cabins for just females or just males as a result of this verdict. I think it is difficult to have men and women bunking in the same cabin and wonder what the sleeping situation was on M/Y Endless Summer? As a woman, I would never bunk in the same cabin with a man onboard. No way.

  5. Terry Verney

    While I realise that the girl suffered and was made to do something against her will, I think a little restraint should be shown by the courts. That’s a lot of cash for what would be a nasty demeanour in the world in general. Ok, the guy was caught, he spent time in jail and she was given recompense for the pain she suffered but Like P. Sonneberg in the previous comment, I think it will open up a can of worms for fortune hunters and the like.

  6. Terry Verney

    FYI, In all my years on yachts (nearly 15, not long I grant but long enough) I have never, ever shared a cabin with a member of the opposite sex. The Captain would never have condoned it and the crew would not have, either. If the couple had been a ‘couple’ and have joined as a couple, fair enough but to be billeted with a member of the opposite sex was a no-no.
    So P Sonnenberg, I don’t find your missive as difficult to understand as a lot of others. You wouldn’t be bunked in with a man.
    And on another note, PhyllveysOnkel, what’s wrong with employing people from the former Eastern European section? They’re human, aren’t they?
    I know a lot of people from Poland and they are as gentle as lambs…

  7. JIm

    Hire qualified and skilled crew, pay them good wages and provide benefits. One wonders why both yachts and cruise ships have staff problems, until you find that they recruit from overseas and do not pay prevailing wage

  8. Max

    I don’t understand why the rape happened on Feb 2015 and the woman sued the owner on Feb 2016, one year later. Why so long time to think about what to do? And I also agree that the sentence was excessive and will probably inspire bad crewmembers to sue owners for everything in the future. Anyway, it is time to admit that the big source of problems in this industry is alcohol.

  9. sdzg

    actually the federal authorities did not arrest the yacht. Please research before spewing this.

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