Royal Caribbean is not responsible for a grandfather’s deadly decision to hold his 18-month-old granddaughter up to an open window, a federal judge ruled Tuesday in connection with the tragic 2019 falling death of 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand.
The parents of the toddler alleged that poorly designed windows and a lack of warning notices were responsible for their daughter’s fall from a Freedom of the Seas cruiser as it docked in Puerto Rico.
On Tuesday, a judge threw out the lawsuit before it could go to trial in Florida next week, arguing grandfather Salvatore Anello, who accidentally dropped the child to her death from the 11th deck, was to blame, according to Miami federal court documents.
“The true risk-creating danger here was Mr. Anello lifting a child up to an open window,” federal Judge Donald Graham wrote, as he absolved the cruise liner of liability.
Anello, who pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide last year, claimed he didn’t know he was holding Chloe against an open window because there were no warning signs. He also said his colorblindness prevented him from distinguishing between glass and free air, according to The Daily Mail.
“I wasn’t drinking and I wasn’t dangling her out of a window,” he previously said.
Security footage of Anello popping his head out of the window, before lifting Chloe up and holding her outside for about 34 seconds before she fell, appeared to contradict his claim.
Lawyers for parents Alan, 42, and Kimberly, 38, Wiegand claimed that Royal Caribbean “chose to ignore” the “clear, known” dangers of the open window, according to The Mail.
Judge Graham ruled that Anello, who is reportedly in his early 50s, should have literally used his senses.
“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,” Graham wrote.
“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,’ the judge continued.
In a videotaped deposition, Anello recounted his version of the disaster, the Mail reported.
“The entire ship had a wall of glass in an open-aired area. At no time did I not think that there was a protective wall of glass around me. I had confirmed wrongly in my mind that there was glass,” he reportedly said.
“Chloe got out of my hands because there wasn’t glass I expected there. I had my hands on her the whole time.”
After the accident, I remember Kim getting there and screaming, ‘Why would you have a window open?’ And that’s the first time I realized it was like a window … and not just like a missing pane of glass,” he told the court, according to the article.
The Indiana couple’s lawyer told the UK tabloid they planned to appeal, within minutes of the 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 told the outlet.
“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.”