A Seattle jury ordered Ride the Ducks International and its Seattle operator to pay the victims of a deadly 2015 duck boat bus crash and their families $123 million in damages.
The awards to the 42 plaintiffs in the case range from $40,000 to $25 million, with the highest award of about $26 million going to Phuong Dinh, a severely injured crash survivor.
The crash occurred in September 2015 when the left-front axle broke on a World War II-era amphibious duck boat, sending the vehicle into oncoming traffic on Seattle’s Aurora Bridge. The duck boat crashed into a charter bus full of international students who were headed to a North Seattle College orientation, killing five people and injuring more than 60 others.
The jury found that Ride the Ducks International of Branson, Missouri, was 67 to 70 percent at fault for the crash while its Seattle licensee, Ride the Ducks of Seattle, was 30 to 33 percent at fault. The jury determined that the city of Seattle and state of Washington, who were also defendants in the case, were not at fault.
Four of the plaintiffs settled with both Ride the Ducks companies a month into the four-month-long trial, receiving about $8.25 million in total damages.
Although the jury award was substantially less than the $300 million the plaintiffs sought, lead plaintiffs’ attorney Karen Koehler praised the jury for its decision, saying the jurors did exactly what they were asked to do.
“This jury was always on top of this case and we couldn’t have asked any more of them,” Ms. Koehler said, according to The Seattle Times. She said the jurors acknowledged that even those whose physical injuries weren’t as severe “were not OK.”
She also said she hopes the decision will lead to the duck boats being taken off the road.
An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) earlier found that the duck boat crash happened when the left front axle broke off the amphibious vehicle due to improper manufacturing by Ride the Ducks International of Branson, Missouri, and improper maintenance by Ride the Ducks of Seattle.
Ride the Ducks International is also a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the victims and their families of a duck boat accident that drowned 17 people last July in the company’s home base of Branson, Missouri.
The plaintiffs in that case claim that Ride the Ducks vehicles are not only dangerous on land, but are “coffins and death traps” in the water as well.