Royal Caribbean was cleared of wrongdoing in the 2019 death of Chloe Wiegand, an 18-month old toddler who was with her grandfather when she fell out of a cruise ship window, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
U.S. District Judge Donald Graham in Florida threw out a lawsuit filed by the parents of Wiegand, arguing that her grandfather Salvatore “Sam” Anello was responsible for the toddler's death, not the cruise line.
Wiegand was in the care of her grandfather when she fell to her death through an open window in a children’s play area on a cruise ship docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in July 2019.
In February, Anello, of Valparaiso, Indiana, was sentenced to three years probation after he pleaded guilty to negligent homicide last year in his granddaughter's death. Anello has repeatedly said that he did not know the window was open, while the cruise company has released images they say prove Anello leaned out the window and therefore knew it was open.
Michael Winkelman, the family's lawyer, said the photos were "misleading."
In his ruling, however, Graham wrote: "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."
"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," the federal judge continued.
Graham concluded: “The true risk-creating danger here was Mr. Anello lifting a child up to an open window. The Plaintiffs have provided no evidence showing the Defendant was on notice of that danger."
Alan Wiegand and Kimberly Schultz Wiegand, Chloe's parents, sued the cruise line in December 2019, contending that the company failed to "adequately mark the open windows" and "install safety prevention devices," among other grievances.
Graham threw out the suit before the case was set to go to trial in Florida next week.
Royal Caribbean and Winkelman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Winkelman told the Daily Mail that the Wiegand family planned to appeal the court's decision.
"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," Winkleman said.
"We will be filing the appeal shortly and we will continue to fight and raise awareness about the dangers of unintentional toddler window falls," he added. "This case was always about Chloe and shining a light on her brief but beautiful life."