Cruise line blames 'reckless' grandfather for toddler's death after family says company violated international codes

Alex Woodward
The toddler fell 11 stories to her death: AFP

Royal Caribbean is urging a Florida judge to dismiss a lawsuit against the cruise company after the death of an 18-month-old child who fell from an ocean liner's 11-storey window during a family holiday.

In a motion to dismiss filed on 8 January, the company accuses the child's grandfather of accidentally dropping Chloe Wiegand after he lost his grip while holding her outside the window.

The motion says: "His actions, which no reasonable person could have foreseen, were reckless and irresponsible and the sole reason why Chloe is no longer with her parents."

Surveillance footage provided by the company reportedly shows Sam Anello as he "stands in front of the open window and exposes Chloe to the open window, which was 11 decks high off the ground, with nothing but a concrete pier below, for approximately 34 seconds at which time she unfortunately fell", according to court filings.

In a wrongful death lawsuit filed in US District Court last year following Chloe's death, the Wiegand family says that the company's Freedom of the Sea ship had violated "national and international codes, standards, guidelines, and recommendations applicable to windows".

The lawsuit alleges that "there was not a single, adequate indication that this wall of glass panes was not actually a wall of fixed glass panes, but instead a wall of glass with glass panes that could actually slide and remain open, as windows."

None of the panes "contained a warning, design decal on the glass, or anything to warn passengers ... of the hidden danger that some of the glass pane windows in the middle row may be slid open", the suit says.

According to the lawsuit's version of events, Chloe asked to be lifted up to bang on the glass, then fell through "the only single pane, among dozens of panes, that was slid completely open".

Mr Anello was charged with negligent homicide in Puerto Rico, where the ship was docked at the time of Chloe's death. As part of a guilty plea deal, he received probation and supervision but no jail time.

The Wiegand family said it does not support the charges or verdict in the Puerto Rico case.

Royal Caribbean says its surveillance footage "contradicts" the lawsuit's "version of events and leaves no room to dispute any fact about the incident".

In court filings following the company's attempt to dismiss the case, the Wiegands requested the court remove the video footage from the record and accused the company of "not establishing the authenticity of the videos and not providing sufficient details as to their level of enhancement".

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