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Sexual Assault on Vacation

More than 100 million flock to Florida annually, according to VisitFlorida.org, many domestic visitors from other states and millions from abroad. These figures don’t account either for Floridians who visit other parts of their own state for vacations.

Sexual assault on vacation in Florida occurs far too frequently. One report revealed that coastal Florida cities with an influx of spring breakers have a sizable uptick in reported sexual assaults in March. But sexual assault of tourists in Florida isn’t limited to those few weeks.

While accountability for such conduct begins with criminal prosecution of the suspect, the reality is these acts often happen because some entity – a hotel, a cruise ship, amusement parks, a nightclub – failed to use reasonable care in providing protection to patrons or guests.

At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderdale sex assault attorneys fight to obtain compensation not just from the perpetrators, but also those businesses and other entities whose careless actions made tourists vulnerable to such attacks.

Although insurers typically do not provide coverage for intentional wrong-doing (though one can sue the assailant directly for compensation collected through their personal assets), claims against businesses for premises liability, vicarious liability or some other form of negligence can be covered by liability insurance because they involve a third-party defendant accused of negligence, not criminal conduct.

Legal Theories in Sex Assault on Vacation Cases

The legal theory behind these civil sexual assault claims are as follows:

Premises liability. In general, all property owners – night clubs, hotels, bars, restaurants, public pools, shopping centers, amusement parks, etc. – owe a duty to use reasonable care in addressing foreseeable hazards on their property. This includes doing everything they can to reduce the risk of a violent criminal assault on guests. Although there isn’t a hard-and-fast line as far as what is “reasonable,” courts have generally decided these cases in plaintiff’s favor in sex assault cases where businesses had inadequate security, inadequate lighting, easy accessibility to private guest quarters (i.e., no locks, broken locks, etc.) or negligent hiring, supervision or retention of employees. Tourists are typically “business invitees” at these sites, a classification given because they are there for the benefit of the property owner or manager. Business invitees are owed the highest duty of car, and businesses must routinely inspect for foreseeable risks, address them and, if necessary, provide warning.

Vicarious liability. Under the legal doctrine of “respondeat superior” (Latin for “let the master answer”), employers can be held vicariously liable for the negligence or criminal wrongdoing of an employee – assuming that at the time of the incident, the employee was acting within the course and scope of employment to further a purpose or interest of the employer. An example of this would be a security guard who sexually assaults a hotel guest or an amusement park worker who attacks a child in a restroom. If the attacker or negligent individual was acting in the course and scope of his or her employment at the time of the incident, the victim can hold the employer accountable, without having to prove the employer itself was negligent. The one problem with vicarious liability is that sexual assault and battery claimants often have a hard time proving the employee was acting in the course and scope of employment at the time of the incident. There are some exceptions, though. For instance, courts have held that when an employee “purports to act or speak on behalf of the (employer) and there was reliance upon apparent authority or he was aided in accomplishing the tort by existence of the agency relation,” then grounds for vicarious liability may be sufficient. Your Fort Lauderdale attorney can explain further.

Negligent hiring, supervision, retention, etc . This is a form of employer liability, but it holds the employer was somehow directly negligent with respect to some action (or inaction) in the way it hired or supervised employees (i.e., failing to conduct thorough background checks, failing to provide adequate oversight of employees, etc.) or for refusing to fire an employee after finding out they posed a potential risk to customers or guests. Tourists are often vulnerable, being unfamiliar with their surroundings and perhaps local culture and customers; companies who take it upon themselves to employee people who will be working closely with them must vigorously screen each worker and disqualify them or fire them when there are red flags raised.

Contact The Ansara Law Firm for more information about pursuing a civil claim for damages after sexual assault, abuse or molestation. Call us at (954) 761-3641 for a free case review.

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