Ride the Ducks Crash Victims get $123 million by King County Jury
A King County jury on Thursday awarded $123 million to the victims of the 2015 Ride the Ducks crash that took lives of five people and injured another 60 others.
The hearing was done after a four-month civil trial. The jury gave the Ride the Ducks International — the Branson, Missouri-based manufacturer of the Duck amphibious vehicle, 67 to 70 percent responsibility of the crash. And Ride the Ducks of Seattle, which operated the vehicle would bear the rest 30 to 33 percent responsibility.
The total 40 plaintiffs would get $40000 to $25 million each.
As per the Superior Court jury, the other two parties mentioned in the suit, the city of Seattle and the state of Washington, were not responsible for the crash. The crash happened when the World War II-era duck vehicle passed the centerline of Seattle’s Aurora Bridge and moved into a charter bus full of international students on Sept. 24, 2015.
The amount demanded by the lead plaintiffs’ attorney, Karen Koehler was $300 million. But, she said she was pleased with the jurors’ decision and said they did exactly what they were asked to do.
She said the jurors believed the plaintiffs’ stories and believed them. They also realized that the people even who were injured “were not OK.”
She said following the verdict, “This jury was always on top of this case, and we couldn’t have asked any more of them.”
Koehler said that she hoped the verdict would take Ducks vehicles off the road.
In an emailed statement, Ride the Ducks of Seattle stated the changed it had brought about in operations after the accident.
The mail reads, “Since the accident, we’ve made significant structural changes to the critical parts of our vehicles and instituted a program of regular testing, done in addition to inspections undertaken by the state and United States Coast Guard, we’ve done a top-to-bottom review of our operations and have unilaterally made a series of changes including removing the Aurora Bridge from our route.”
Steve Puz, an attorney for the state, said that though he was pleased with the juror’s decision, there is nothing to be happy in a case which costed the lives of innocent people.
Jurors, who have been hearing the case since January 28, declined a request for an interview as they were leaving the courtroom.
The lawsuit was filed in 2016 on behalf of 40 people who were injured or killed in the crash. According to the lawsuit’s claim, the previous owner of Ride the Ducks International collected parts from junkyards and used flawed fixes for the Duck vehicles’ operation, though he was neither a mechanic nor an engineer.
The suit claimed that the Ride the Ducks of Seattle failed to inspect and maintain the amphibious vehicle properly. Notably, the company ignored a 2013 service bulletin from the manufacturer warning of a flaw in the axle and recommending a fix, the suit stated.
Attorney Jack Snyder of Ride the Ducks International (RTDI) claimed during the trial that the company had identified the issue before the crash, and it had successfully made necessary alterations to the vehicles it owned and issued an alert to all the other Duck-vehicle operators.
He said all other Ducks licensees and franchisees, except for Seattle, made the fix needed.
Ride the Ducks of Seattle claimed that the manufacturer’s recommendation could not be realized as it did not differentiate between trivial recommendations and urgent safety warnings.
It should be noted here that, a welding expert called to the stand by Ride the Ducks of Seattle testified that even if the Seattle Company had added a collar of metal around the weak axle, as per the recommendation of RTDI, it would not have prevented the axle failure.
As per the suit, Washington State and the city of Seattle were also accused of bearing some responsibility for the crash as both were aware that the Aurora Bridge was unsafe, but they did not install median barriers.
However, the attorneys for the city and state denied any role or responsibility in the crash as it was not caused by a defect on the road, but entirely done by the actions, or inactions, of the two Ducks companies. Nevertheless, both the City and State last year settled with the families of twelve crash victims.
In the crash five North Seattle College international students who were on a chartered bus headed to downtown Seattle for orientation, were killed. They were identified as “Claudia Derschmidt, 49, of Austria; Privando Putradanto, 18, of Indonesia; Runjie Song, 17, of China; Mami Sato, 36, of Japan; and HaRam Kim, 20, of South Korea”.
As per the investigators of the National Transportation Safety Board, the collision happened after the front axle broke off the Ducks vehicle due to improper manufacturing by Ride the Ducks International and inadequate maintenance by Ride the Ducks of Seattle.