Jury awards $123 million to victims of Seattle duck boat crash
(CNN) — A jury has awarded about $123 million to the victims and families of a fatal 2015 crash between a duck boat and a tour bus in Seattle.
The jury determined that Ride the Ducks International, the manufacturer of the duck boat vehicle, was 67-70% responsible for the crash, while Ride the Ducks of Seattle, the duck boat tour operator, was 30-33% at fault.
The duck boat — a vehicle that can run on both land and water — crashed with a bus carrying students and employees from North Seattle College on the city’s Aurora Bridge in September 2015. The crash left five people dead and dozens injured.
After the crash, investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board found that the duck boat’s front axle had broken and that it didn’t undergo a repair that its manufacturer recommended two years earlier. The NTSB said Ride the Ducks International had notified customers of a potential safety concern and had recommended fixes or increased monitoring of the vehicle.
The verdict, handed down Thursday, declared that the manufacturer supplied an unsafe product and breached product liability law, and said that the tour boat operator had been negligent.
Lawyers representing the victims and families had also sued the city of Seattle and the state of Washington, but neither was found responsible.
After the verdict was reached, Ride the Ducks of Seattle issued a statement saying it has made significant structural changes to parts of its vehicles and instituted regular testing, in addition to inspections by Washington state and the US Coast Guard. The tour boat operator also said it has done a “top-to-bottom review” of its operations and removed the Aurora Bridge from its route.
“Since the tragic accident on September 24, 2015, Ride the Ducks of Seattle owners, management and team members have always wanted to do right by everyone affected by the accident, but have been limited by constraints in the legal process,” the company said in a statement. “Today, they jury’s verdict puts us one step closer to that goal. There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t think of those lives that were forever changed that day.”
Ride the Ducks of Seattle also said it has been trying to repair its relationship with customers.
“We’ve been working hard to regain the trust of those we serve and will continue to do so in the future,” the company said in its statement.
CNN has made several requests for comment to the company that owns Ride the Ducks International but has yet to receive a response.
Karen Koehler, the lawyer representing the duck boat crash victims and their families, was pleased with the jurors’ decision, the Seattle Times reported.
“This jury was always on top of this case and we couldn’t have asked any more of them,” she said following the verdict, according to The Seattle Times.
Koehler also said she hopes the decision will result in the company’s vehicles being taken off the road.