PUERTO RICO — In response to a lawsuit filed by the family of an Indiana toddler who fell to her death from a cruise ship last year, Royal Caribbean Cruises claims security video shows that the girl's grandfather knew the window was open when he picked her up and dangled her out of it.
Chloe Wiegand fell to her death in July after her grandfather lifted her to the window on Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas ship while the vessel docked.
Chloe's grandfather, Salvatore Anello, has been charged in Puerto Rico with negligent homicide. He insists he's colorblind and didn't know the 11th floor window in the children's play area was open. He said he believed he was lifting Chloe so that she could bang on the glass like at a hockey game.
Chloe's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Royal Caribbean Cruises in December 2019, claiming the company violated industry standards by failing to provide reasonably safe windows in an area where children play on the ship.
The court documents filed on January 8, 2020, seek dismissal of the lawsuit filed by the toddler's family against Royal Caribbean Cruises that claims they were negligent.
The documents allege that Anello was 'unquestionably aware' that the window was open because video shows him leaning out of it right before he picked Chloe up and dangled her from it.
The documents filed by Royal Caribbean claim Anello's actions were captured on two separate video surveillance cameras, which were previously unreleased. The cruise ship has now submitted those videos to the court in response to the lawsuit filed against them.
“This is not a case of an unknowing child approaching an open window and falling out because the window was defective or improperly positioned," the court documents read. "Rather, this is a case about an adult man, Chloe’s step grandfather who, as surveillance footage unquestionably confirms: (1) walked up to a window he was aware was open; (2) leaned his upper body out the window for several seconds; (3) reached down and picked up Chloe; and (4) then held her by and out of the open window for thirty four seconds before he lost his grip and dropped Chloe out of the window. 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.”
The following argument was filed by Royal Caribbean Cruises and comes directly from the court documents filed on January 8, 2020 in the United States District Court of Southern Florida.
There are two closed-circuit television cameras which captured the events leading to the fall.
The still shots taken from the videos show:
1. Mr. Salvatore Anello, wearing a dark short sleeve shirt (see red circle) following Chloe, wearing a white hat (see second red circle), towards the open window on Deck 11:
2. When he arrives at the open window, and while Chloe is on the floor, Mr. Anello leans his upper-torso over the wooden railing and out of the window frame for approximately eight seconds:
3. Because Mr. Anello had himself leaned out the window, he was well aware that the window was open. In addition, the windows in question consist of greenish-tinted glass making it open and obvious where a window is open versus closed.
4. And as these photographs and the photos included in the Complaint show, the window was several feet off the deck. Further, the photographs included in the Complaint also show the middle glass panes contain a handle to allow the operable windows to be slid open. (ECF No. 1, Compl. at ¶ 15).
5. Next, Mr. Anello leans down and picks Chloe up, lifting her over the wooden rail towards the open window located several feet off the deck:
6. Mr. Anello stays 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.
7. The only reasonable conclusion from the video is that Mr. Anello knew the window was open before picking up Chloe. He nonetheless lifted the child over the wooden rail and the open window for a considerable period, recklessly endangering her life. There was no “hidden danger” — Mr. Anello knew the window was open. The video contradicts Plaintiffs’ version of events and leaves no room to dispute any fact about the incident. Notwithstanding, for the reasons stated in this Motion, the Court need not consider the video to find the Complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a cause of action.