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A Vermont family says their toddler was molested on a Disney cruise. The company says the allegations are ‘wholly without merit.’

"We will vigorously defend this case in court."

Jet skiers pass the Disney Cruise Line ships "Fantasy," left, and "Dream" on the horizon as they sit stationary off Cocoa Beach, Florida, March 24, 2021. Joe Burbank / Orlando Sentinel via AP


CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A family has filed a lawsuit against Disney Cruise Lines, saying their 3-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted by an older child inside a ship’s day care center due to understaffing and poor training of employees.

The lawsuit filed last month in federal court in Orlando says employees working in the Disney Fantasy’s day care center did not inform them of the assault during a January 2020 trip and were not adequately trained or licensed to work with children.

Disney Cruise Line spokesperson Cynthia Martinez told the Orlando Sentinel that the family’s allegations were “wholly without merit.”

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“The plaintiffs’ first allegations were reported to the FBI, and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office investigated them and determined them to be unfounded,” Martinez said in a statement. “The plaintiffs have now come back with a different story, which is equally unfounded, that another young female child acted inappropriately with their child. We will vigorously defend this case in court.”

The lawsuit, which seeks $20 million, argues that employees should have separated children by age group to reduce the risk of sexual abuse and employees should have placed the child in the nursery for younger children. The child accused of improperly touching the girl has not been identified to the family, said Michael Winkleman, the attorney representing the family from Vermont.

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“It’s easy to say this is a parent’s worst nightmare,” Winkleman told the Orlando Sentinel. “They went on a Disney cruise, they put their child in, basically, the day care of Disney. This is about the last thing that they would ever imagine would happen.”

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