A wrongful death trial is set to start over the deaths of two Hungarian students who were killed in a fatal boating accident with a tugboat-guided barge and a sightseeing boat on the Delaware River in 2010.
Today, a judge will consider limiting the liability of the at-fault parties, tugboat operator K-Sea Transportation and duck boat operator Ride the Ducks, to around $1.8 million. This is the estimated combined value of the two vessels.
Robert Mongeluzzi, attorney for the victims' families, stated:
"They're saying to these parents, 'The lives of your two only children are worth $1.8 million...the same as our vessels.'"
The two alleged wrongful death victims, 20-year-old Szabolcs Prem and 16-year-old Dora Schwendtner, lost their lives when a 250-foot tugboat barge ran over the 33-foot sightseeing boat they were traveling on.
Prosecutors stated that the captain of the tug boat was on his cell phone and in the middle of a family emergency when he failed to control his vessel. After pleading guilty in November, he was sentenced to a year in prison for the maritime equivalent of involuntary manslaughter.
The capping of the at-fault parties' liability can be applied under the Limitation of Liability Act in accidents involving injuries and deaths in which the shipowner can prove it was unaware of the problem beforehand.
The victims' attorneys will argue that the shipowner should have known and that the deaths were contributed to by errors by both boat pilots, as well as inadequate training procedures and safety policies of the companies' respective employers.
Mongeluzzi went on:
"This accident wasn't a freak occurrence, it wasn't an aberration. It has its roots going back over years."
Prem's parents, through a translator, stated:
"Our son was pure and innocent, with nowhere to hide. Yet the big companies involved can hide behind an ancient law that limits the value of a human life to no more than a sunken boat."
Mongeluzzi expects this trial to take years to complete.
As a Phoenix wrongful death lawyer, it is always upsetting to see such young individuals lose their lives as the result of someone else's reckless acts.
I remember watching the footage of this particular incident when it happened a couple years back--Truly terrifying, and our thoughts continue to go out to the families of the victims in this incident.
Our Phoenix wrongful death law firm will keep you updated as the trial takes its course.