Judge Rules That Royal Caribbean Is Not Responsible for Death of Toddler Who Fell out an Open Window
A federal judge determined that the girl's grandfather should have known he was holding her against an open window
A judge has ruled against the family whose toddler fell to her death out of a cruise ship window in July 2019, saying that her grandfather -- not the cruise line -- was responsible for her death.
Chloe Wiegand was in the children's play area of Royal Caribbean's Freedom of the Seas when she fell out an open window 11 stories onto a concrete dock in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She was in the arms of her grandfather, Salvatore "Sam" Anello, who held her up to an open window.
Anello pleaded guilty to negligent homicide last year. He was sentenced to three years of probation in his home state of Indiana.
After receiving his sentence in February, Anello released a statement saying that he felt "a mixture of anger and relief."
"I feel relief that I will serve no jail time and that I did not have to admit any facts," he said in the statement, obtained by PEOPLE. "Relief for my family so that we can close this chapter and move on together."
"I feel angry at Royal Caribbean because it is clear that these windows never should have been allowed to have been opened in the first place," Anello continued. "You can't go into a single hotel or building anywhere in the United States where windows this high up would be allowed to be opened more than a few inches. Yet on this cruise ship, Royal Caribbean allowed this window to be opened by anyone, at any time, right next to a kid's water park."
Anello has repeatedly said that he believed the window was closed. In response, Royal Caribbean has released surveillance images that appear to show Anello leaning out the window before the incident, indicating that he did realize it was open.
Attorneys for Anello call the photos "misleading."
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Donald Graham sided with Royal Caribbean.
"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," Graham wrote. "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."
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."
Attorneys for Chloe's family say that they'll appeal the ruling.