Teenage Rape Suit to Play Out in Bahamas

     (CN) – A Florida woman cannot pursue claims in the U.S., that several Americans raped her after a Bahamas hotel bar served her alcohol when she was underage, a federal judge ruled.
     On the evening of Dec. 19, 2010, U.S. citizen Laura Montgomery and a female friend, both 17, arrived at the Atlantis Resort in Paradise Island, Bahamas. Even though the pair allegedly produced identification showing that they were under the legal drinking age of 18, they were admitted to the bar and each served three mixed drinks.
     Around 1:30 a.m., five Americans – Garret Nichalus Wittels, Jonathan Oberti, Robert Walter Rothschild, and two others – allegedly approached Montgomery and her friend who say that after Wittels bought them a drink, the “extremely intoxicated” women accompanied two of the men to their hotel room, and another arrived later on.
     Montgomery says while she was “semiconscious,” at least one of the men undressed her, and then, “two members of the group had vaginal intercourse with plaintiff and one of the group had her perform oral sex on him.” She also says she was “unwilling and effectively unable to consent to these actions due to her level of intoxication.”
     The next morning, at Montgomery’s request, resort security staff reported the events to Bahamian police, and the women were separately interviewed by detectives and examined at a hospital in Nassau. By the next day, police had detained the young men.
     After “admitting that either they or another member of their group had participated in some form of sexual activity involving plaintiff or her friend, but denying that such activity was without consent,” Oberti, Rothschild, and Wittels were arrested and charged with rape.
     However, police later concluded the women’s statements “did not match video surveillance captured by Atlantis Resort’s security system,” and all charges against the men were dismissed.
     Montgomery sued and resort operator, Island Hotel Co. Ltd., a Bahamian company headquartered in Plantation, Fla., for negligence in December 2011. She also later brought sexual battery, assault, and emotional distress claims against the three men.
     All defendants filed motions to dismiss, and Island Hotel moved for summary judgment.
     U.S. District Judge James Cohn dismissed the action last week based on forum non conveniens, tossing aside Montgomery’s claim that neither contingency-fee arrangements nor jury trials are available in the Bahamas.
     “The court is mindful of the strong presumption in favor of plaintiff’s chosen forum, especially since she is a U.S. citizen,” Cohn wrote. “Yet the court agrees with defendants that they would ‘suffer a manifest material injustice if forced to litigate here because of the difficulty they will necessarily encounter in trying to secure the testimony of witnesses and other critical evidence located in the Bahamas and outside the jurisdiction of this court.'”
     The judge refused to address Island Hotel’s motion to strike certain evidence, however.
     “The male defendants have represented, at least implicitly, that they would subject themselves to the jurisdiction of the Bahamian courts,” Cohn wrote. “Still, to ensure that the male defendants are amenable to process in the Bahamas, the court will retain jurisdiction over this action in the event that any defendant refuses to proceed voluntarily in the Bahamian courts. If the courts of the Bahamas decline to hear plaintiff’s claims because defendants do not consent to jurisdiction there, then plaintiff may move to reopen this action.”

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