In previous wrongful death posts, we discussed the July 2010 crash involving a city-owned tugboat and a Ride the Ducks tour boat. Two people died in the fatal accident on the Delaware River, and now the wrongful death trial resulting from the collision has begun.
A criminal case also resulted from this fatal accident. We previously reported that the operator of the barge that crashed into the duck boat pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter. He became distracted while operating the tugboat, causing it to crash into the stranded duck boat. The court got to see a video of the shocking collision, beginning the civil trial on quite an impactful foot.
The two fatal victims of the boating accident were Hungarian tourists riding on the duck boat. Their families are suing various parties whom they believe were involved in the tragic incident, including the operator of the tugboat, the city of Philadelphia, the operator of the duck boat and more.
A pressing concern in the wrongful death trial right now is how much the families can sue for. The defendants are highlighting an old maritime law that would significantly limit how much in financial compensation the plaintiffs can get out of the lawsuit. The 1851 law would limit damages to the amount that the boats were worth.
If the court rules that the maritime law applies in this wrongful death case, the values of the lives lost would essentially be assessed based on the value of the boats involved in the accident. That measurement would likely leave a bad taste in the mouths of just about any family out there who has lost a loved one to negligence.
Source: Fox News, “Video of fatal boat crash opens wrongful death trial in Philadelphia,” May 7, 2012