The parents of a toddler who fell to her death from the 11th deck of a Royal Caribbean cruise ship have lost their bid to hold the cruise line legally responsible.
Alan and Kimberly Wiegand launched a negligence suit two years ago, arguing that the poorly designed windows and lack of warning notices were to blame for their daughter, Chloe’s plunge from Freedom of the Seas.
Chloe’s grandfather Sam Anello was charged over the death of his 18-month-old granddaughter and has been sentenced to three years probation.
The presiding judge threw out the case against Royal Caribbean just days before it was supposed to go before jury, ruling there was no way the line could have anticipated the toddler’s grandfather would hold her up to an open window.
‘The Plaintiffs have provided no evidence showing the Defendant was on notice of that danger.’
Within minutes of the decision Michael Winkleman, the Wiegand’s attorney, said the couple from South Bend, Indiana planned to appeal.
“The family is surprised and deeply saddened by the court’s ruling. This is a matter that should be decided by a jury, and we are confident and hopeful the appellate court will agree,” Mr Winkleman told DailyMail.com.
“We will be filing the appeal shortly and we will continue to fight and raise awareness about the dangers of unintentional toddler window falls. This case was always about Chloe and shining a light on her brief but beautiful life.”
The family were due to embark on a seven-night cruise from Puerto Rico in July 2019 with Chloe’s parents, older brother, fraternal grandparents and Mr Anello’s wife, Patricia when tragedy struck.
Footage shows Mr Anello holding Chloe up to the glass of the ship for 34 seconds before she tumbled through the open window and fell onto the concrete pier.
Mr Anello claimed he had no idea he was placing her against an open window due to the lack of signage and he could not distinguish between the tinted glass and open air because he is colourblind.
However, Mr Anello was arrested and charged by Puerto Rican authorities, and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour charge of negligent homicide and was sentenced to three years of probation, which he is serving out in his home state of Indiana.
Despite Mr Anello’s admissions, Mr and Mrs Wiegand continued to pursue a case against Royal Caribbean pushing a negligence lawsuit within days of Chloe’s death and forced the line to revise its window design and pay potentially tens of millions in compensation.
The couple’s lawyers said Royal Caribbean ‘chose to ignore’ the ‘clear, known’ dangers posed by their windows and instead chose to defend the case by blaming Mr Anello. They also claimed the line destroyed CCTV evidence which Royal Caribbean has denied.
Judge Graham ultimately sided with Royal Caribbean, agreeing that Chloe’s death was solely the result of Anello’s “unforeseeable’ behaviour and that he would only have had to rely on his basic senses to conclude from the noise, light and wind that the window was ajar.
“Based on the record evidence which reveals that the windows surrounding the subject window were tinted; that Mr. Anello reached out in front of him and felt no glass in the window opening before extending the Decedent out to the window opening; that this incident took place on the 11th deck of the Defendant’s vessel.
“And that Mr. Anello leaned his upper body over the wooden hand railing and out to the window opening before deciding to lift the Decedent up to the window, this Court finds that a reasonable person through ordinary use of his senses would have known of the dangers associated with Mr. Anello’s conduct. Accordingly, the Defendant owed no duty to warn of it,” Judge Graham wrote.