Family of toddler who died in fall from cruise ship can sue Royal Caribbean, judge rules

Chloe Wiegand, an 18-month-old from Indiana, fell to her death this past summer off a Royal Caribbean vessel docked in Puerto Rico.
Salvatore Anello with his granddaughter Chloe Wiegand.
Salvatore Anello with his granddaughter Chloe Wiegand.Courtesy Wiegand Family
/ Source: NBC News

Royal Caribbean Cruises had sought to end the federal civil action by Indiana residents Alan and Kim Wiegand, whose daughter, 18-month-old Chloe Wiegand, suffered a fatal fall on July 7 from the Freedom of the Seas ship.

Both the cruise line's "motion to dismiss" bid and U.S. District Court Judge Donald Graham's ruling were expected. Both sides still have a long way to go in exchanging evidence, before any judgement can be made, according to the judge.

"The parties have exchanged very little in terms of discovery and catapulting this case past the discovery phase would require the plaintiffs to defend the merits of their case prematurely and without essential evidence," Graham wrote.

A rep for Royal Caribbean Cruises did not immediately return messages seeking the defendant's comments on Thursday.

"We are very pleased with the court's decision and look forward to getting to the merits of the case," according to a statement by the Wiegands' lawyer Michael Winkleman.

The toddler died after she fell from the arms of her grandfather Salvatore "Sam" Anello. The family blames Royal Caribbean because the cruise line didn't "adequately mark the open windows so that they are apparent to passengers."

The family said Chloe's grandfather is colorblind so there's no way he could have seen, without warning signs, that the green-tinted windows on the upper deck near the kids' play area were open.

But the cruise line claims it has photos and footage that shows the grandfather leaning out the windows, and thus must have known they were open.