Estate of minor who survived Table Rock Lake boat accident sues Ripley Entertainment, others for damages

By Gabriel Neves | Dec 8, 2018

SPRINGFIELD – The estate of a minor who survived a duck boat accident at Table Rock Lake is suing the owner and the operators of the boat for damages caused.

The National Banking of Indianapolis, who is the guardian of the estate of the minor D.H., filed a lawsuit Nov. 29 at the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri Southern Division against Ripley Entertainment Inc., Branson Duck Vehicles LLC, Ride the Ducks International LLC, Ride the Ducks of Branson LLC, Herschend Family Entertainment Corp., and Amphibious Vehicle Manufacturing LLC on grounds of negligence, strict product liability, punitive damages, negligent infliction of emotional distress and violation of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act.

As stated in the complaint, on July 19, "17 people had their lives tragically and horrifically taken from them when the Ride the Ducks Stretch Duck 07 Duck Boat sank to the bottom of Table Rock Lake in Branson," when Ripley, the owner of the boat, decided to run the boat despite alerts indicating severe weather conditions to the area.

An alert of the National Weather Service, per the complaint, highlighted "the risk of severe storms on July 19," with the outlook issued the day before "cautioning of the possibility of 'damaging wind risk' the next day."

Ripley allegedly ignored the weather alerts and had normal operations that day with 31 people on board, including the minor. A safety briefing was held, in which passengers were not required to wear their life jackets.

After the boat entered the water, the storm arrived to the lake, bringing high winds and waves as high as four feet, which caused the vessel to sink to the bottom of the lake, with 14 survivors and 17 deaths, with the minor among those who lived.

The minor, the complaint states, "suffered physical, mental, and emotional injuries including, but not limited to, head injuries, water inhalation injuries, severe chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, vomiting, exacerbation of previous conditions, survivor’s guilt and other injuries, all of which have required and may in the future require hospital treatment, psychiatric treatment, neurological treatment and other rehabilitative and medical procedures."

The plaintiff alleges in the complaint that "as a direct and proximate result of defendants’ carelessness, negligence, gross negligence, recklessness, outrageous conduct, and complete disregard for the welfare of their passengers, 17 people were dragged to their horrific deaths when Stretch Duck 07 sank to the bottom of Table Rock Lake, with the 14 survivors suffering life-altering injuries," the suit states.

The plaintiff is asking for damages in a reasonable amount, plus costs, punitive damages, and attorney's fees, as well as for a jury trial.

The plaintiff is represented by attorneys William Robb, Gregory Aleshire and Kevin Rapp of Aleshire Robb PC of Springfield.

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