I previously reported in my post, Tugboat Crashes Into Passenger Boat Causing Deaths And Personal Injuries about an incident involving a duck boat tour in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported “lawyers for the families of two young Hungarian visitors who died in the duck boat accident last month filed a lawsuit today against the tour operator, Ride the Ducks, and the tug boat operator, K-CSCA Transportation Partners.”
In the article, the attorney for the family said the victims died by drowning when they were trapped underneath the water by the duck boat’s canopy.
Of critical importance is the fact that a National Transportation Safety Board report that was issued in 1999 involving another duck boat accident said that these canopies on these amphibious vessels posed a safety threat and should be removed.
As for the other Defendants sued in this wrongful death action, K-CSCA Transportation Partners, it is alleged they were operating the tug boat, Caribbean Sea, which was pushing a barge that struck the duck boat.
Another key factor cited by the attorney who filed the lawsuit is that he received an anonymous tip that that the helmsman aboard the tug boat had lowered the volume of the marine radio so that he was able to take a cell phone call. This caused him not to hear the distress calls that were coming from the disabled duck boat.
This Maritime wrongful death lawsuit also alleges punitive damages. As I have previously discussed, punitive damages are not available under the Death on the High Seas Act, which applies when wrongful deaths occur outside the territorial waters of the United States. Whether punitive damages may be recovered in a Maritime wrongful death action even when the Death on the High Seas Act does not apply may depend on whether the Court will look to state wrongful death actions to supplement the general Maritime Law. There is support under the general Maritime Law for the recoverability of punitive damages in a Maritime personal injury or wrongful death case when the Death on the High Seas Act is not applicable. This is another complexity of the Maritime Laws that needs to be carefully analyzed.