Skip to main content

Judge says duck boat owner can’t use 19th century law to limit claims

When the duck boat sunk in a thunderstorm in 2018, 17 passengers and one crewmember were killed.

When the duck boat sunk in a thunderstorm in 2018, 17 passengers and one crewmember were killed.

A federal judge has determined that a 19th century maritime law does not apply to claims coming from a deadly duck boat accident in Branson, Mo., in 2018.

The operator of the boat, Ripley Entertainment, has settled all but one of the 33 claims filed against it as a result of the sinking that took place on Table Rock Lake near Branson during a thunderstorm. Sixteen passengers and a crew member died on July 19, 2018 after the boat went down.

Families of those who died as well as survivors sued Ripley Entertainment, claiming it was negligent in sending the boat out on the water when management knew a thunderstorm was approaching.

In response, Ripley cited an 1851 maritime law called “Admiralty jurisdiction” that limits a vessel’s damages in an accident to the value of the sunken boat. The law was designed to protect American ship owners competing with foreign vessels. According to, the law has been routinely invoked to limit damages in accidents.

U.S. District Judge Doug Harpool last Friday ruled that “admiralty jurisdiction” does not apply to the Table Rock Lake incident because the lake is not a navigable waterway as defined by law.

“By ruling as he did, he has completely dismissed this argument that Ripley had put forth,” Hillsboro, Mo., attorney Kevin Roberts, said in a statement. He represents the sons of Rosemarie Hamann, who died in the sinking. The sons, Joseph and William Strecker, have yet to settle with Ripley and the attorney said that if his clients don’t get a satisfactory settlement offer, they’re prepared to go trial. “We attempted mediation once and we felt, quite honestly, their posture was insulting,” Roberts said. “My clients were very, very disappointed.”

Ripley Entertainment had no comment. All the remaining plaintiffs have reached confidential settlement agreements with Ripley.

Ripley has filed notice that it will appeal Harpool’s decision to the 8 U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and has asked the judge to stay his ruling until the appeals court hands down its decision.



Clearing the Waterways

In Florida, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, it was estimated that there were 6,000 derelict boats in southwest part of the state. In most cases, boat owners don’t know resources are available to remove them because until recently there weren’t many.


A Window on the World

Inflation, supply-chain kinks and the continuing war in Ukraine continue to be serious concerns, but numerous companies with a global presence for exports are reporting optimism at the start of 2023.


BRP Announces Mexico Production Facility

The $165 million plant will open in early 2025 in Chihuahua and create up to 1,300 jobs while bolstering production capabilities.


C.G. Foundation Announces Scholarships

The program each year awards more than $500,000 to qualifying children of active duty, active duty reserve and retired Coast Guard members.


Propspeed Expands U.S. Sales Team

Josh McGuire and Cole Barone were named regional sales managers for the Northeast and West Coast.


Newport Boat Show Had $26.1M Impact

The September show drew more than 40,000 attendees last year, with boat sales estimated at $35 million to $40 million.


Consumers Feel a Bit Better

A key measure of U.S. consumer confidence rose in December as the economy added 223,000 jobs, the smallest gain in two years. The Conference Board reported that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 108.3 from 101.4 in November.


How the ABYC Creates Standards

Standards are a full-time mission for the ABYC that goes beyond simply putting out a new supplement every July. As an organization built on a tradition of common-sense and real-world experiences, the ABYC works on standards development year-round with its Project Technical Committees.


Year Three of Five

Fear of an impending exodus, especially with concerns about a looming economic recession, has leaders at the MRAA, the National Marine Manufacturers Association and the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation urging the industry to start focusing immediately on improving customer service as the primary way to retain these boaters.