US family appeal civil case against Ritz-Cayman

| 28/01/2015 | 0 Comments

(CNS): A family from Pennsylvanian pursuing a civil case against the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, in which they claim their daughter was sexually assaulted in the hotel by an ex-employee, say they intend to appeal a US judge’s decision to dismiss their lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds. The judge found that because all of the primary witnesses, evidence and events occurred in the Cayman Islands a trial in the US would result in an undue burden.

However, the family filed an appeal on Monday to keep alive the civil action in their home country as they seek damages from the luxury hotel for the “physical and psychological damage” allegedly suffered by their 15-year-old daughter, who they claim was involved in a sexual encounter with a former bellhop.

Iyilla Delmar Spence was acquitted in August of last year when a jury found him not guilty of a sexual assault on the teenage girl. Spence had admitted having a consensual sexual encounter with the girl but gave evidence that he did not know how old she was and believed she was a college student, making her well over the age of consent. The teenager, who was staying at the hotel with her parents in March 2013, claimed she had told Spence exactly how old she was and that she did not consent to any of his sexual advances.

However, the jury of five men and two women were not convinced and acquitted the then 40-year-old man from George Town of all charges. The crown’s case against Spence hung mostly on the evidence of the complainant, which contained a number of inconsistencies.

The sexual encounter between the couple took place in March 2013 after the couple had first “kissed and cuddled” following a tour of the hotel he had given the girl on the previous day. Spence said that they met again the next day when he delivered a package to her room, where they engaged in a much more intimate, but consensual, sexual encounter. The teenager, however, claimed Spence had sexually assaulted her on the stairwell of the hotel before rushing away, and then sexually assaulted her for the second time the following day when he delivered a package to her room.

Following the jury’s decision last summer the family confirmed their intention to pursue the case in the civil courts in the US. The girl’s parents said the staff and management at the hotel had a duty to ensure their guests’ safety and prevent harm to their daughter.

When the US judge threw out the case on 16 January, he said it would be less inconvenient for the family to travel again to the Cayman Islands for a civil trial than to order witnesses who may not have proper international travel credentials to fly to Philadelphia. Completing the discovery process for the trial would also mean invoking the Hague Convention on the Taking of Evidence Abroad in Civil or Commercial Matters.

“This Court would have to issue letters of request … to the consulate in the Cayman Islands, directing the consulate to compel the depositions of any unwilling witnesses in the Cayman Islands,” the judge wrote. “This procedure would put a tremendous strain on the efficiency and resources of the Court as well as the parties and would not be necessary if the case proceeded in the Cayman Islands.”

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Category: Courts, Crime

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