Vermont family says toddler molested on ship, Disney denies claim

Vermont

PORT CANAVERAL, UNITED STATES – 2020/03/13: A man seen fishing as the Disney Dream cruise ship departs from Port Canaveral in Florida the day before the cruise line suspended its operations for all new departures effective March 14, 2020 in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. (Photo by Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A Vermont family has filed a lawsuit against Disney Cruise Lines, saying their 3-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted by an older child inside a ship’s day care center due to understaffing and poor training of employees.

The lawsuit filed last month in federal court in Orlando says employees working in the Disney Fantasy’s day care center did not inform them of the assault during a January 2020 trip and were not adequately trained or licensed to work with children.

Disney Cruise Line spokesperson Cynthia Martinez told the Orlando Sentinel that the family’s allegations were “wholly without merit.”

“The plaintiffs’ first allegations were reported to the FBI, and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office investigated them and determined them to be unfounded,” Martinez said in a statement. “The plaintiffs have now come back with a different story, which is equally unfounded, that another young female child acted inappropriately with their child. We will vigorously defend this case in court.”

The lawsuit, which seeks $20 million, argues that employees should have separated children by age group to reduce the risk of sexual abuse and employees should have placed the child in the nursery for younger children. The child accused of improperly touching the girl has not been identified to the family, said Michael Winkleman, the attorney representing the family from Vermont.

“It’s easy to say this is a parent’s worst nightmare,” Winkleman told the Orlando Sentinel. “They went on a Disney cruise, they put their child in, basically, the day care of Disney. This is about the last thing that they would ever imagine would happen.”

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