Royal Caribbean is seeking to dismiss a civil lawsuit filed by the family of Chloe Wiegand, claiming that her grandfather was “well aware” that the 11th-floor window was open before the Indiana toddler’s fatal fall.
Chloe, who was just 18-months old at the time of her death, had fallen from the Freedom of the Seas cruise liner on July 7, after slipping from her grandfather Salvatore Anello’s grasp while the cruise ship was docked in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
An attorney for the Wiegand family said later that month that Anello had held Chloe up to what he believed to be a window, so she could bang on the glass.
Anello later claimed that his colorblindness may have been a contributing factor in the heartbreaking incident, leaving him unable to distinguish between the ship’s tinted windows and the open windows.
“I thought there was glass. I still say it to myself, it’s just, I kind of relive it all the time, and I just thought there was glass there. I don’t know what else to tell you,” he had previously said of the incident.
In December, the Wiegand family filed a lawsuit against Royal Caribbean, questioning why the window was open, and with no sufficient warning or signage.
This month, Royal Caribbean filed a motion with the courts in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida to dismiss that lawsuit, citing security camera footage that, they claim, shows Anello leaning out of the open window prior to Chloe’s death.
"This is not a case of an unknowing child approaching an open window and falling out because the window was defective or improperly positioned. Rather, this is a case about an adult man, Chloe’s step grandfather who, as surveillance footage unquestionably confirms: (1) walked up to a window he was aware was open; (2) leaned his upper body out the window for several seconds; (3) reached down and picked up Chloe; and (4) then held her by and out of the open window for thirty four seconds before he lost his grip and dropped Chloe out of the window," the cruise line wrote in its motion to dismiss.
Royal Caribbean then referred to stills from its video footage, which they claim show Anello leaning from a window before picking Chloe up.
"When he arrives at the open window, and while Chloe is on the floor, Mr. Anello leans his upper-torso over the wooden railing and out of the window frame for approximately eight seconds," the motion states, according to court documents.
"Because Mr. Anello had himself leaned out the window, he was well aware that the window is open."
Michael Winkleman, an attorney for the Wiegands, has since called Royal Caribbean’s motion to dismiss “baseless.”
“It is clear that Royal Caribbean’s tactic is to blame Chloe’s grandfather rather than to accept that Royal Caribbean did not implement industry standards for toddler safety aboard its ships which ultimately led to Chloe’s tragic death,” Winkleman said, in part, in a statement shared with Fox 43.
Winkleman further claimed that Royal Caribbean was supplying “two deceptive views from its CCTV cameras.”
On Friday, attorneys for the family filed two further motions: one to strike the video footage, claiming the "the authenticity of the videos" had not been established; and another asking the court to make Royal Caribbean "to produce all video footage from all of the cameras," of which Winkleman had said there were 13 in total.
Anello, meanwhile, has been charged with negligent homicide by Puerto Rico prosecutors in November. The charge carries a possible sentence of three years in prison.
In a statement shared with Fox News, Royal Caribbean had no further comment on its motion to dismiss.
“The death of Chloe Wiegand is undeniably a heartbreaking tragedy that has prompted a criminal prosecution of Chloe’s step-grandfather and a civil lawsuit brought by the Wiegand family attorneys. Our position in the matter is outlined in our Motion to Dismiss, which we were legally mandated to do in response to the civil complaint. The motion was filed in Federal Court in South Florida and is available to the public.”