Sanford Heisler Sharp Files Opposition in Response to Government’s Argument that the Rape of a Civilian Mariner by the Captain of a U.S. Navy Ship Should Be Addressed as Workers’ Compensation Because it Falls within the Performance of Her Job Duties

SOMERSET COUNTY, N.J., March 04, 2024 (GlobeNewswire) — Sanford Heisler Sharp and Maritime Legal Solutions today filed an Opposition to the Government’s Motion to Stay in the case of Elsie E. Dominguez v. United States, No. 3:23-cv-22724-GC-JBD. These motions are the latest in the sexual assault case that was first filed on November 29, 2023 in federal court in New Jersey against the United States. The Complaint in this case alleges that Elsie E. Dominguez, a civilian mariner working as the 1st Assistant Engineer aboard the USNS Carson City, a naval vessel operated by the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC), was raped by the Captain of the vessel as she slept in her bed and that the United States failed to adequately protect her from sexual assault.

On February 13, 2024, the United States moved to stay the case, arguing that any injuries that Ms. Dominguez sustained from being raped in her own bed were a consequence of her employment and can only be redressed through a workers’ compensation claim. In her Opposition, Ms. Dominguez notes the astonishing nature of the United States’ position that the possibility of being raped by the ship’s captain while sleeping in one’s private quarters is a part of a mariner’s job duties aboard a U.S. Navy ship. As stated in the Opposition, in addition to being morally reprehensible, this argument is neither factually accurate nor legally defensible.

In its Motion to Stay, the United States notes that “rape is a reprehensible crime, and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is investigating this serious allegation.” Despite this assertion, the United States attempts to limit Ms. Dominguez’s legal remedies to only workers’ compensation. In support of its position, the United States argues that rape by the Captain of a ship constitutes a work-related dispute, rather than one that arises out of personal motivations. This assertion is contrary to the allegations in the Complaint. Furthermore, it is difficult to imagine how a rape could ever be a work-related dispute. Ms. Dominguez’s Opposition notes that the government’s position is offensive to civilian mariners and society’s notion of decent working conditions.

“The government’s arguments in its motion demonstrate a shocking lack of concern for the circumstances that led to Ms. Dominguez being assaulted and her resulting injuries,” Dunn said. “Civilian mariners should not be expected to take on the risk that their Captain will rape them in their own bed as a condition of accepting employment on a U.S. naval vessel. For the United States to characterize this sexual assault as workers’ compensation is astonishing.”

“Ms. Dominguez was violently attacked because of the negligence of the United States,” Melogy said. “Ms. Dominguez has bravely come forward with her story to make sure that other mariners do not go through what she did, but the United States continues to fail her.”

Ms. Dominguez is represented in the matter by Sanford Heisler Sharp Partners Christine Dunn (DC Office) and Carolin Guentert (New York Office), Co-Chairs of the Sexual Violence, Title IX and Victims’ Rights Practice Group; Andrew Macurdy (New York Office), Sanford Heisler Sharp Partner and Co-Chair of the Trial Practice Group; Frank Xu, Senior Litigation Counsel (DC Office); and Shannon Henris, a Tom Henderson Civil Rights Fellow (DC Office). Ms. Dominguez is also represented by J. Ryan Melogy of the New York law firm Maritime Legal Solutions, PLLC.

The Lawsuit

The Complaint asserts that the United States’ conduct violates the Jones Act and general maritime law because Ms. Dominguez’s injuries were directly caused by the United States’ negligence and failure to provide a seaworthy vessel. The United States has waived sovereign immunity under the Suits in Admiralty Act and the Public Vessels Act. The Complaint requests a jury trial.

About Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP

Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP is a national public interest class-action litigation law firm with offices in New York, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Palo Alto, San Diego, Nashville, and Baltimore. Sanford Heisler Sharp focuses on employment discrimination, Title IX, wage and hour, whistleblower, criminal/sexual violence, and financial services matters. The firm has recovered over $1 billion for its clients through many verdicts and settlements. The National Law Journal recognized Sanford Heisler Sharp as 2021 Employment Rights Firm of the Year, 2021 Human Rights Firm of the Year, and 2022 Civil Rights Firm of the Year.

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If you have potential legal claims and are seeking counsel, please call 619-577-4253 or email [email protected]. Attorneys at Sanford Heisler Sharp would like to have the opportunity to help you.

About Maritime Legal Solutions, PLLC

Maritime Legal Solutions, PLLC is a maritime law firm focused on the representation of mariners who have been the victims of shipboard harassment, sexual harassment, sexual assault, and other forms of maritime abuse. If you need help reporting maritime abuse to the U.S. Coast Guard or federal law enforcement, please contact Ryan Melogy by emailing [email protected], calling 347-562-9119, or visiting for a complimentary consultation.