Casey Schulman’s Family Seeks Justice in Dominica

Casey Schulman

Casey Schulman

Casey Schulman, a University of Virginia (UVA) student, was killed December 1, 2012 by the propeller of an excursion vessel in Dominica while on a UVA “Semester at Sea” program. We covered the accident at Student Killed by Propeller in Dominica.

As is frequently the case at water tourism destination sites outside the U.S., the Schulman family feels their daughter’s death has not been sufficiently investigated and appropriate actions have not been taken against those they feel are responsible.

We have seen this play out countless times before. The 2000 Kirsty MacColl accident in Mexico, the 2002 Paul Gallagher (age 2 of the UK) accident in the Bahamas, the 2007 Quesnel & Laso (of Spain) accidents in Trinidad & Tobago, 2007 Rebecca Stockwell/Crowell (of New Zealand) accident in Fiji, and the 2009 Paige Welch (age 13) accident in Trinidad & Tobaggo are just few examples of families that struggled for years in attempts to extract answers and justice from destinations where tourism is big money and local officials have “reasons” not to rock the boat.

In this instance, Casey Schulman’s family has hired law firms in Washington D.C., Miami Florida, and Dominica to aid in their quest.

Law Firms Retained by the Schulman Family:

  • Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel PLLC of Washington D.C.
  • Robert L. Parks of Miami Florida
  • Norde and Lambert Chambers in Dominica

While that may sound like overkill to some, it makes sense. They need a good strong local firm they may have already had some dealings with, all cruise ship related legal matters are normally handled in U.S. District Court for Southern Florida (she was there on a Cruise Ship with the “Semester at Sea” program ran by UVA), and they need someone onsite in Dominica.

UPDATE – On May 9, 2013 the captain of the boat that struck her, Andrew Armour was charged with manslaughter in Dominca.

One way these remote destinations hide from legal recourse is the great expense involved in mounting a challenge from outside their country. In this instance, the Schulman family was sending their daughter to a public ivy league school and on an expensive “Semester at Sea” program. UVA instate undergraduate tuition, fees, books, room & board, and personal expenses are estimated at $24,000 per year plus travel expenses per their website. Costs are about twice that for out of state residents. The “Semester at Sea” voyage Casey Schulman was on cost approximately $25,000. While the Schulman family may not be “rich”, they are probably better able to financially mount a legal offensive outside the U.S. than many families would be.

After the accident, Casey Schulman’s family wrote numerous letters to Dominican authorities asking about the status of the investigation and the prosecution of the boat operator whom they say was negligent and did not have a license at the time of the accident. Having not received the answers they desired, the family engaged legal assistance.

Schulman’s Washington D.C. law firm sent a letter to Gene Pestaina (Director of Public Prosecution) and Daniel Carbon (Police Chief) in Dominica on April 12, 2013 (four months after the accident) asking them several questions.

“Last December I wrote to you on behalf of the family of Casey Schulman who was killed December 1, 2012 when the captain of the Passion Andrew Armour, ran over Ms Schulman,” … “While as a former federal prosecutor, I appreciate that investigations and the exercise of prosecutorial discretion take time, I have become concerned about the amount of time that has passed since Schulman’s traffic death. As you know, from the numerous reports of Schulman’s death in Dominica that are listed in the attached letter, the world closely followed this matter and continues to do so.”

Per coverage on Dominica News Online, the letter also asked when Mr. Armour would be brought to justice.

Dominica News Online contacted the office of DPP which had no comment and Mr. Armour who only said he had hired a local law firm and a firm in St. Kitts to handle the matter.

Dominica News Online received about 140 comments to their coverage of the Schulman Family’s Quest for Justice. Those comments tend to group into categories:

  • It was just an accident
  • It was her fault
  • Mr. Armour is very sad and knows the impact this accident could have on the already fragile tourist business
  • We know the government and justice systems are corrupt and nothing is going to change that
  • Rich people in the U.S. are trying to bully Dominicans
  • American law is not Dominican law. They will have to prove negligence based on our laws.

We always shudder when one of the focal points of discussion is the harm this could cause to the local tourism industry. While we have seen this many times before, we hope this time the Schulman’s are able to receive some answers surrounding the death of their daughter.

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