Key video in $20M Disney Cruise lawsuit fails to prove case

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It’s unclear what exactly the video shows.

Surveillance video exists that captures a 3-year-old being sexually abused by another child onboard a Disney Cruise ship, the family’s attorney said.

But looking at the same video footage, a Disney attorney argues there’s no evidence of a sexual assault and denies such an incident ever happened on the boat.

Even U.S. District Court Judge Roy Dalton Jr. acknowledged the video does not clearly show a crime.

“Nothing in the video — and I looked at it pretty carefully — jumped out at me,” Dalton said during a recent court hearing although he agreed the family’s attorney has a right to get more information from Disney to learn what really happened as part of an ongoing civil lawsuit.

The family anonymously filed a $20 million lawsuit last year against Disney Cruise Line, claiming the then-3-year-old was sexually abused at the Disney Fantasy ship’s youth club in January 2020.

Attorneys for both sides convened in front of Dalton to discuss the lawsuit, the information the family wants to get from Disney and how to navigate such a case involving a young, alleged victim and a young, alleged perpetrator whom Disney identified as a 7-year-old girl wearing a Princess Leia costume, according to the transcripts of the Feb. 16 hearing recently filed in federal court records.

The lawsuit alleges the 3-year-old was “excessively groped and sexually touched in her private parts by the older child and did not have the physical capability to break through the physical restraint and thereby end the sexual assault.”

It’s unclear what exactly the video shows but Dalton described the contents and some of his questions that lingered from watching the footage.

“I don’t know whether she was upset. It appears that she might have been. They were attempting to console her. Why were they consoling her? What was the problem? What did she talk to them about? Did she make some report to them of some sort of inappropriate encounter?” the judge said. “The child clearly communicated something to them.”

Disney has all that information while the family’s attorney “has access to none of that,” Dalton told the two sides.

“At a bare minimum, why would the plaintiff not be entitled to talk to those people and say, ‘What’s going on here? Here is the video. Here you are. The child seems upset. What did she say? What did you say to her? Did she report something untoward?'” Dalton said.

But Disney attorney Jerry Hamilton argued Disney should not be forced to give up the information since he said the lawsuit centers on the surveillance video. A 16-minute clip in the video footage the family is focusing on does not show any sexual assault, he said.

“That’s the time period that they’re hyper-focused on, and they’re saying that was a sexual assault. Well, the video is the clearest evidence of that, Judge,” Hamilton said. “There was never a report of any sexual assault on board our ship. There was never any investigation. They left the ship and didn’t report any misdeed at all.”

Hamilton said the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office investigated but that portion of the transcript also is partially redacted.

“The CCTV alone doesn’t show the evidence,” said Stefanie Black, an attorney who is part of the family’s legal team, during the hearing. “That’s not the only evidence in this case. In fact, we’re also dealing with a minor that was 3 at the time, and now she’s 5, and she’s more verbal and she has verbalized the incident to her therapist. That, of course, probably goes more toward damages, but also to liability.”

But Dalton warned Black that getting such a young child involved in the court proceedings “creates a whole host of problems, which is why I have you here” in court.

The judge said later to her, “I will tell you; I am not going to permit this 5-year-old to be deposed. … And that may cause you some difficulties, Ms. Black, at some point down the road. Because if you’re going to hang your case on the testimony of a then 3-year-old, now 5-year-old, you’re probably not going to get where you want to go.”

Black said she wants Disney Cruise Line corporate representatives under oath to talk about policies and training at the youth club “and everything involved.” The family argued in the lawsuit they were not notified of the sexual assault; Disney didn’t properly supervise the children and Disney was wrong to place older and younger children together in the youth club.

In December, Disney filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing in court records the lawsuit was without merit.

“Plaintiffs and their counsel have viewed the hours of CCTV footage tracking (the child’s) movements in the Oceaneer Club during the cruise. The CCTV proves that at no point was (the child) ever touched inappropriately, let alone sexually assaulted,” Disney said in the filing.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is a journalist who covers theme parks and Florida tourism. She previously worked at the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the Toledo Blade and the Kalamazoo Gazette. She graduated from Michigan State University.


One comment

  • Impeach Biden

    May 4, 2022 at 8:51 am

    Gender identity and sexual orientation. This is what Disney supports in grades K through 3 in the state of Florida.

    Reply

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