Family files negligence suit over duck boat accident in Branson

By Charmaine Little | Sep 13, 2018

SPRINGFIELD – A family who survived a duck boat accident on Table Rock Lake in Branson that killed 17 people recently filed a federal lawsuit claiming they suffered physical, emotional, and psychological injuries following the July 19 accident.

In the suit filed Sept. 6 in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Southern Division, Tiffany Collins her husband, Shayne Collins, her daughter Talyssa Mann, and her mother, Ronita McKinley were passengers on boat. Tiffany Collins’ sister, Tomlyn McDonald, was also on the boat, Stretch Duck 07. McKinley’s husband, Gary McKinley, and McDonald’s husband, Dustin McDonald, also sued for loss of consortium as a result of their spouses being involved in the accident. 

Tiffany Collins also sued on behalf of her minor child, T.K., who was a surviving passenger. The McDonalds sued on behalf of their children, Ca.M. and Ch.M., who are both minors and passengers that survived the accident.

Their suit claims they suffered major physical, emotional, and psychological injuries as a result of surviving the tragic accident. Named as defendants are Ripley Entertainment Inc., Branson Duck Vehicles LLC, Ride The Ducks International LLC, Ride The Ducks of Branson LLC, and Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation. The plaintiffs referred to the defendants collectively as RTDI.

In their lawsuit, they stated each of the defendants were fully aware of not only the design issues but the safety hazards of the duck boats that they each had a hand in manufacturing and designing. “For two decades, defendants had been repeatedly told to change the design of their duck boats to make them safer, but they entirely ignored those warnings,” the plaintiffs said in their lawsuit. They added that an inspector even told the defendants there was no way the engines and bilge pumps would be able to operate in bad weather conditions because the boats’ exhaust system was not placed correctly.

The plaintiffs said they believe as a result of the defendants ignoring the warnings, as well as other factors they outlined, the duck boat had no chance of making it through a storm that resulted in the tragic accident.

On the day of the accident, the National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the area. While it was in effect until 9 p.m., the level of severity was bumped up to a severe thunderstorm warning for the area at 6:32 p.m. Still, about 20 minutes later, the captain of the boat briefed all of the passengers before going out on the water. It was noted that during this briefing, the captain told the passengers they wouldn’t need to wear life jackets. It was also said that RTDI has a policy that if winds are above 35 miles per hour, or if waves are higher than 2.5 feet, the boats should not go on the water.

They also pointed out the president of Ripley Entertainment, Jim Pattison Jr., admitted the boat should not have been in the water during the dangerous weather conditions. Still, the plaintiffs said the duck boat operators would have rather risked everyone’s safety and went out on the water rather than canceling the tour and refunding their money. Unfortunately, 17 people died during the boat ride, and 14, including the plaintiffs, were left with life-altering injuries, the plaintiffs added.

Each of the plaintiffs sued Ripley Entertainment and Branson Duck Vehicles for negligence. They also sued Ride The Ducks International,LLC, Ride The Ducks of Branson LLC, Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation and Amphibious Vehicle Manufacturing LLC for strict product liability and negligence. They sued all of the defendants for outrageous conduct and requested punitive damages.

The suit also alleges negligent infliction of emotional distress and loss of consortium, stating that they have “been deprived of ... love, companionship, comfort, affection, society, moral guidance... and more as a result of the accident."

The suit also alleges violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.

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