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Adam Damien Panetta Charged In Brutal Assault On Norwegian Cruise Ship

A New York man is facing federal charges in connection to an assault on a Norwegian Cruise ship. Adam Damian Panetta, 45, was taken into custody after the cruise ship came into port in Boston on Friday, April 26, 2019. He has been charged for one count of assault resulting in substantial bodily injury, NBC New York reports.

Norwegian Cruise Passenger Suffers Brutal Assault At Sea

Authorities say the Farmingville, New York native brutally assaulted a woman as the Norwegian Gem neared 200 miles off the coast of New Jersey. Court documents describe incidents captured on surveillance video in the cruise ship. As prosecutors describe the video, Panetta can be seen dragging the woman by her hair down a hallway of the ship, before the two arrive at a cabin door. When Panetta tried to open the cabin door, the woman reportedly slapped him across the face.

Fatal Accidents On Cruise Ships: What Can The Deceased’s Loved Ones Do?

Cruise Ship In Harbor

Then, Panetta turns to the woman and punches her twice in the head with his closed fist. He then entered the cabin, leaving the woman unconscious on the floor of the hallway. Panetta then emerges about a minute later and leans down to the woman, who appears to remain unconscious. After a few minutes, the woman begins to crawl into the cabin room, at which point Panetta kicked her twice in the buttocks as she crawled across the floor.

The two emerged from the room about thirty minutes later, the woman holding a blood-stained towel over her head. Later that day, the pair went to the ship's medical center. The woman was treated for swelling on her head and a laceration requiring five stitches. Reports suggest the ship had been on a seven-day cruise to Bermuda at the time.

Farmingville Man Charged For Assault In Boston

Panetta's alleged attack is said to have occurred on April 25, 2019, when the Norwegian Gem was around 200 miles off the coast of New Jersey, beyond the demarcation line for international waters. The identity of the alleged victim has not been disclosed, and there is no word on what her relationship to Panetta was at the time of the incident. Prosecutors have not said whether Panetta and the woman knew each other before the cruise ship headed out to sea, but additional video footage taken from the ship's bar appears to show Panetta and the woman together having drinks around 2 a.m. on the morning of the assault. Around 2:14 a.m., the two were observed walking down a corridor hand in hand, authorities say.

According to Newsweek, the Norwegian Gem entered service in 2007. The ship routinely takes regional cruises embarking from ports in North America and Europe, with a capacity of 2,394 passengers. Panetta faces serious criminal penalties if convicted on the charges. If convicted, he could face up to six years in prison and $350,000 in fines.

Sexual Assault Leads To Civil Lawsuit

This is not the first time Norwegian Cruise Line has come under fire over an alleged assault. In January 2018, an Iowa family filed a civil suit against the company after their 12-year-old daughter suffered an alleged sexual assault by a crew member in her cabin in February 2017. Despite the verdict of a criminal court, which found the alleged assailant not guilty last year, the family maintains that their daughter, identified as H.P. in court documents, was "sexually assaulted, sexually battered and sexually abused" as she took a nap in her cabin aboard the NCL Escape around 1 p.m. on February 16, 2017.

In their lawsuit, the family accuses Norwegian Cruise Line of negligence in screening prospective employees as crew members. The suit also takes aim at Norwegian's apparent practice of providing ship stewards with master keys that allow access to passenger cabins. The family is seeking more than $75,000 in financial damages, saying the alleged assault caused the plaintiff to suffer "bodily injury, emotional distress, mental anguish, pain, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, medical and psychological expenses." Norwegian has confirmed that the accused crew member no longer works for the company.

Continue reading more stories on cruise ship accidents:

Royal Caribbean has been ordered to pay $20.3 million to a former employee whose hand was crushed while at work.

See more related articles on cruise ship accidents:

Door Causes Catastrophic Crush Injury To Employee’s Hand

In August of 2008, the plaintiff was working as a marketing manager on a Miami based ship, Voyager of the Seas. The ship was in port in Barcelona, Spain when a routine fire drill occurred that ended up being anything other than ship at night

During the fire drill the semi-tight water doors, which are designed to prevent water from flooding the ship, closed. A nurse working on the ship was unaware of the drill and the automatically closing doors and tried to open one. When she did, she fell and the door began to close and the plaintiff leapt into action to help her.

The plaintiff managed to get the nurse of the way in time but her hand was caught in the door and crushed when it was sucked into the recess pocket, an area that is only large enough to fit a pencil. The door continued to try and close and her hand was crushed in the mechanism three more times before coworkers were able to shut down the door and free her.

Doctor Fails To Properly Splint Broken Fingers

The plaintiff was taken to a doctor in Barcelona who misdiagnosed the breaks and then splinted her fingers in the wrong position. Despite working with a physical therapist for years, she has been unable to regain full function in her hand and she has also been diagnosed with chronic pain syndrome which sends pain into her other arm and her head.

Royal Caribbean Lets Injured Worker Go

Two years after her accident the cruise line terminated the plaintiff’s employment, stating that because of the permanent damage to her hand she was unable to lift at least 50 pounds, despite the fact that her job was clerical.

After she was let go she made the decision to file a lawsuit against the company, alleging that they breached her employment contract, failed to pay her the full wage, terminated her employment due to non-performance reasons, failed to provide her with proper medical care, and were negligent because they failed to train all employees about how to handle the doors during a fire drill or actual crisis.

Jury Awards Millions To Cruise Ship Lawsuit Plaintiff

The plaintiff and defendant were unable to reach an agreement and the case went to trial. For three weeks a jury heard arguments from both sides. In the end, they determined that Royal Caribbean was at fault and awarded the plaintiff $20.3 million.

The award is intended to cover the plaintiff’s past and future wage loses, medical expenses, and her pain and suffering.

Cruise Ship Lawsuits Are Common

passengers on a cruiseGoing on a cruise is more popular than ever and while many passengers have a happy and safe trip, others aren’t so lucky. Each year, thousands are hurt while on a cruise by:

The victims of these accidents may be able to recover compensation for their losses but only if they contact an attorney quickly. Unlike other civil lawsuits, cruise ship lawsuits have a much shorter statute of limitations and if a victim waits to pursue legal action they may forever lose the opportunity.

I Was Hurt While On A Cruise Ship But I Signed A Waiver - Can I Sue?

Many cruise ships offer various activities for passengers to participate in and often require waivers to be signed. While waivers indicate that a passenger is understanding of the risks that might be associated with the activity, the cruise must still do everything in their power to provide a safe environment.

For example, some ships offer activities like rock climbing. If the ship fails to provide the correct safety equipment or supervision and the passenger is hurt as a result, the passenger may still be able to file a lawsuit even if they signed a waiver.

Up next: Supreme Court Won’t Hear Johnson & Johnson’s Motrin Appeal

On Tuesday, January 19, 2016, the US Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal filed by Johnson & Johnson over a lawsuit involving the company's fever and pain medication Children's Motrin, reports Reuters. The lawsuit, filed by Samantha Reckis in 2007, claims patients were not adequately warned about the link between Children's Motrin and two life-threatening skin conditions: Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis and Stevens-Johnson Syndrome.

Contemplation Of Justice

Reckis lost 95% of her skin's epidermis after being Motrin when she was 7, and was awarded $63 million by a jury in Massachusetts. Johnson & Johnson, however, thinks her case should have been dismissed, since the FDA had already rejected a petition from doctors advocating to have the skin rashes added to Motrin's warning label. By the company's lights, that's sufficient evidence the warnings aren't necessary.

For more articles on medical malpractice cases, visit: Medical Malpractice On Cruise Ships Is Life-Threatening.

When State & Federal Law Conflict

For pharmaceutical manufacturers, the question at issue here is a big one.

In drug liability lawsuits, plaintiffs often argue that a company should have warned patients of a product's risks, but since it failed to do so, it should be held accountable when patients suffer those side effects. Then they usually demand that the FDA put stronger warnings on a drug's label to notify future patients of the risks in question. Warning patients about risks that are supported by adequate science is a legal requirement, but it's one enshrined in state laws, rather than federal law.

Drug companies usually fire back: if those allegations were true, the FDA would have already put those warning labels on our products. In some sense, a lack of prior FDA action is being used as evidence that the risks aren't as high as plaintiffs think. The FDA, of course, is a federal agency, so at bottom here, is a question of state versus federal authority. That's why you'll often here about this issue in terms of "federal preemption." The idea is that following some federal laws makes it extremely difficult to follow state laws to the letter. That's okay, and it's constitutional. In Article 6 of the US Constitution, you'll read:

"This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding The Supreme Court has upheld a rigid interpretation of this statement time and again. When state and federal law conflict, federal law eclipses state law. Thus it's not surprising that the Supreme Court has entertained the principle of  federal preemption in the context of drug warning labels. In practice, federal preemption is a little more complicated.

Wyeth v. Levine: The Standard Of "Clear Evidence"

In 2008, the Supreme Court heard the case of Wyeth v. Levine, a textbook example of pharmaceutical company liability. In Vermont, Diana Levine sued Wyeth Pharmaceuticals over injuries she suffered after being injected with the company's nausea drug Phenergan. Physicians used the "IV-push" technique to infuse Phenergan into Levine's arm, but the drug entered her artery, leading to gangrene and ultimately, amputation. Levine sued Wyeth, saying the company had failed to warn patients and health care professionals about the risks of administering Phenergan with the IV-push method. A Vermont jury agreed, awarding Levine a substantial amount of compensation.

Wyeth shot back, appealing the jury's decision to a state trial court, and insisting that Levine's failure-to-warn argument was "preempted" by federal law, since the US Food & Drug Administration had approved Phenergan's labeling. The trial court didn't buy that, declining to overturn the lower court's verdict. Neither did Vermont's Supreme Court, which also affirmed Wyeth's liability in the case. Eventually, the case made its way to the nation's Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court held that Wyeth's state-law duty to adequately warn patients of a drug's risks were not preempted by federal law, since:

  1. the FDA allows drug companies to strengthen their warning labels without preapproval, so Wyeth could have done so if it thought making a change would have benefited public safety, and
  2. there was no clear evidence that the FDA would have rejected that labeling change.

In its Opinion, authored by then-Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court affirmed the principle that drug manufacturers, not the FDA, bear responsibility for the "content" of their labeling "at all times." But the Court left some leeway for drug companies, by insisting on a standard of "clear evidence." If a drug company can show clear evidence that the FDA would have rejected a labeling change, federal preemption may apply (although it would still be a case-by-case decision).

What Does "Clear Evidence" Look Like?

What "clear evidence" means, however, isn't exactly clear. How do you know what an agency would have done, when they haven't done it? The Court does offer several guidelines:

Even with those guidelines, drug companies continue to argue that the Court's "clear evidence" standard is murky at best.

The question has proved contentious throughout numerous lawsuits, including a current Multi-District Litigation surrounding the anti-nausea drug Zofran. More than 200 families have filed lawsuits against Zofran's manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, claiming the drug can cause birth defects.

Glaxo just brought up the "federal preemption argument," filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuits in the Boston court where they've been consolidated. The plaintiffs responded, saying Glaxo hasn't provided clear evidence that the FDA would have rejected a birth defect warning, since the company never applied to have Zofran approved as a morning sickness treatment. But without a clear answer from the Supreme Court on what "clear evidence" actually looks like, the argument will have to be hashed out in the US District Court of Massachusetts.

Continue reading: Cruise Ship Disasters Caused By Poor Navigation

Rape isn't an easy thing to discuss, but it is something that you need to be aware of. You need to learn how to protect yourself and how to avoid situations that may put you in danger. There are also things that property owners should be aware of. A new precedent has been set regarding who is responsible for rape in public places. A case in Boston serves as an example of this precedent where rape victim, Kira Wahlstrom has been awarded $4 million by a jury in Massachusetts, when she filed against the owners of a hotel parking garage.

Ms. Whalstrom's attack occurred only 12 days after another victim was attacked by a homeless man, Jose Ruben Rivera III, the same man that assaulted Ms. Whalstrom. Even though the property owners hired additional security after the first rape, the guard was nowhere near the parking garage where the attacks occurred and therefore could not assist the victim. This fact led the jury to find the property owners culpable in the attack that Ms Whalstom suffered.

dark places

The award in this lawsuit is the largest in history and with interest it amounts to $6.6 million. This lawsuit in particular illustrates the responsibility property owners have in protecting you when you are on their property. This decision will set a precedent, making property owners take an active role to protect patrons on their property.

Victims Have Legal Rights After A Sexual Assault On A Cruise Ship. Learn more here. 

Rape Statistics

Dark premises are problematic as they provide hiding places for perpetrators. Parking garages are especially dangerous public places as noted in a statistical analysis compiled by RAINN. Below are some of the statistics:

These statistics show that you must be on your guard when walking through dark premises, parking garages and other public places. If you find yourself in the horrific position of being a rape victim, and the incident occurred in a public place that was a dark premises, you may be able to seek reparations from the property owners with the aid of qualified attorneys who can help you file a lawsuit.

Property owners need to take basic measures such as adding bright lights and extra security to prevent the rapists from targeting victims in that space. By neglecting to do such basic tasks, property owners are negligent in protecting victims and should be held accountable.

Filing a Lawsuit

Although the process of a trial can be hard on you as a rape victim, these lawsuits are important as their outcome helps create change. These changes have long lasting  effects that make properties safer so others don't become victims. Additionally, rape victims understand how devastating suffering the offense is and their voices can make a big difference in future safety laws. As other property owners view the outcome of the trial, and see that juries are finding property owners responsible for the safety of those that are on their property, more will become proactive, taking measures to prevent rape.

Also see: Pool Drowning Lawyers Get Compensation For Injuries & Wrongful Death

Laurence P. Banville
Date Published: June 20, 2019
Laurence P. Banville is the managing partner of Banville Law. As an experienced personal injury attorney, Mr. Banville helps clients recover compensation from those responsible for his clients' injuries. Our firm is located in New York City, serving clients from the five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island.
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