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Family of toddler who died in fall from cruise ship can sue Royal Caribbean, judge rules

Chloe Wiegand, an 18-month-old from Indiana, fell to her death last summer off a Royal Caribbean vessel docked at Puerto Rico.

A federal judge Wednesday refused to stop a lawsuit filed by the parents of a little girl who accidentally fell to her death off a cruise ship last year.

Royal Caribbean Cruises had sought to end the federal civil action by Indiana residents Alan and Kim Wiegand, whose 18-month-old daughter, Chloe, suffered a fatal fall on July 7 from the ship Freedom of the Seas.

Both the cruise line's motion to dismiss and U.S. District Judge Donald Graham's ruling were expected. Both sides still have a long way to go in exchanging evidence before any judgment can be made, according to the judge.

Image: Salvatore Anello and Chloe Wiegand
Salvatore Anello with Chloe Wiegand, his granddaughter.Courtesy Wiegand family

"The parties have exchanged very little in terms of discovery and catapulting this case past the discovery phase would require the plaintiffs to defend the merits of their case prematurely and without essential evidence," Graham wrote.

Jonathon Fishman, a spokesman for the cruise line, said Royal Caribbean will be filing another motion to dismiss the lawsuit "in upcoming days."

Michael Winkleman, an attorney for the Wiegands, said in a statement: "We are very pleased with the court's decision and look forward to getting to the merits of the case."

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The toddler died after she fell from the arms of her grandfather Salvatore "Sam" Anello. The family blames Royal Caribbean because the cruise line didn't "adequately mark the open windows so that they are apparent to passengers."

The family said Chloe's grandfather is colorblind so there's no way he could have seen, without warning signs, that the green-tinted windows on the upper deck near the kids' play area were open.

But the cruise line claims that it has photos and video showing Anello leaning out the windows and that he must have known they were open.