Over the course of Leesfield Scolaro’s 42-year history, we have seen a remarkable increase in grievous injuries and fatalities with the evolution of the watersports and boating industries. As water excursion operators compete vigorously for the consumer dollar, the tours, vehicles, and equipment they offer become more thrilling, and in turn, more dangerous. We now live in a world where traditional boat charters and snorkeling excursions are not enough. The public now craves the thrill of high speed jet ski tours, parasailing at 800 feet in the sky, water-propelled hover boards and jet packs, amphibious duck boats, paddle boards, and so on. The industry is producing so many new products and services that it is impossible for the government to properly regulate the activities. This inevitably results in tragedy as members of the public put their lives in the hands of poorly trained excursion operators with negligently maintained equipment.
A prime example made national news in July 2018 when an amphibious duck boat capsized and claimed the lives of 17 passengers in a southwestern Missouri lake. Duck boats are unique vehicles that resemble a bus while traveling on land but can also operate as a boat in the water. Regulations are spotty, however, because they are technically neither a bus nor a boat. This particular tragedy encompassed all of the notoriously dangerous elements of water excursions that we have seen in our practice for decades: (1) an inherently dangerous vehicle, (2) reckless and poorly trained employees, and (3) a failure to provide necessary safety equipment.
Over the years, Leesfield Scolaro has successfully prosecuted a large number of cases involving traditional and novel water-related incidents, including:
- $2,880,000 for the wrongful death of a New Jersey tourist participating in a jet ski excursion in Florida;
- $1,850,000 for passenger on a snorkeling excursion charter boat that collided with a channel marker;
- $2,000,000 for the wrongful death of boat passenger ejected when inebriated boat operator crashed into a dock;
- $675,000 for passenger falling inside tour boat due to operator error;
- $2,000,000 for the wrongful death of young snorkeler killed by motorboat operator who failed to see the dive flag;
Water-related injury cases are governed by maritime law, which includes a vast number of complex and unique legal issues. These cases have harsher statutes of limitations, may be required to be filed in federal court, and are subject to a number of legal doctrines designed to protect the shipping and boating industries. It is imperative to associate a law firm with a specialty in maritime law as early in the process as possible to ensure full accountability and compensation.