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One of three wrongful death cases in 2015 sailing deaths settled

The first wrongful death suit against a yacht club in Alabama over multiple deaths in the 2015 Dauphin Island Race was settled last week, according to a story in AL.com. The family of Robert Lonnell Thomas had sued Fairhope Yacht Club over his death after an unusually severe storm swept over Mobile Bay. Six sailors in the racing fleet died in the storm.

A settlement in the trial court was reached on June 5 as the court was beginning to select a jury. Rusty Comley, the attorney for Lonnell’s family, declined to give a monetary amount of the settlement, but said the family “was “pleased.” Attorneys for the yacht club did not respond to a request for comment.

Four other cases have been filed in federal court over the deaths. A judge has ordered that three should be consolidated into one case since they involved one boat, the Razr. A total of $4.5 million in damages are being sought in that case. The judge said that the fourth suit for $2 million against the yacht club should be heard separately since it involved a death on another boat named Scoundrel.

Comley told the paper that the settlement did not necessarily provide a template for upcoming proceedings in federal court. He said Henry’s suit touched on maritime law and Alabama’s wrongful death statute, while the others were filed after the statute of limitations had run out on state claims.

Comley said he expects months of motions to come. "I think we may be looking at a June 2019 trial date," he said.

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