The families of two Hungarian tourists killed when the duck boat
they were on in the Delaware River was run over by a barge will
split a $15 million settlement from the operators of both boats,
according to attorneys in the case.
The remaining 18 passengers who were on the boat will split a $2
million settlement from the defendants, the attorneys added.
The parties are not disclosing how much each of the defendants
will be responsible for regarding the $17 million payout. Ride the
Ducks, its parent company, Herschend Entertainment, and K-Sea
Transportation Partners, the owner-operator of the tugboat
Caribbean Sea, agreed to the terms of the settlement, the
plaintiffs lawyers said.
After hearing testimony in the bench trial Monday and the first
half of Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Thomas O'Neill Jr. of the
Eastern District of Pennsylvania suggested that the parties discuss
a settlement, according to the plaintiffs' lawyer, Robert
Mongeluzzi of Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky in
The parties were in settlement discussions before U.S. District
Judge John R. Padova until mid-afternoon Wednesday. As of just
after 3 p.m., a settlement had not been reached, but the parties
went before the judge about an hour later to announce an
The company that owned the duck boat and the company that owned
the tugboat pushing the barge that crushed it in the Delaware River
both argued that the Limitation of Liability Act, passed by
Congress in 1851, caps their total liability at $1.7 million.
According to that act, the owners of vessels are not liable for
any loss over the value of the ship. Ride the Ducks International
claimed the duck boat is worth $150,000, according to court papers.
K-Sea Transportation valued the tugboat at $1.65 million, according
to court papers.
Dora Schwendtner, 16, and Szabolcs Prem, 20, were killed in the
July 7, 2010, accident and 18 other passengers were left stranded
in the Delaware River.
Mongeluzzi said after the verdict that the settlement represents
nearly 10 times the amount the defendants' vessels were worth. He
said there was significant discovery and documents in what he
called a "long, drawn-out campaign."
"I hope that the publicity of this will change the
transportation industry regarding being on your phone while
operating a vessel or vehicle," Mongeluzzi said.
The operator of the tugboat, who has since pled guilty to
involuntary manslaughter, said he had learned shortly before his
accident that his son was ill and he was on his cellphone dealing
with the family emergency, according to media reports. Before
settlement discussions began, the plaintiffs put on testimony to
support their assertion that the accident was preventable and
resulted from a series of negligent acts in which safety practices
were routinely ignored by critical operating personnel.
Mongeluzzi said O'Neill did a great job in resolving a case with
20 plaintiffs and multiple defendants in less than two years and
Padova was instrumental in getting it settled in less than 24
Andrew Duffy, also of Saltz Mongeluzzi, said the parties reached
a full global settlement of all issues. He said there was no amount
of money that would bring back Schwendtner and Prem. The families
only wanted to find out what happened, find out who was responsible
and ensure it never happened again, Duffy said.
The news of the case and ensuing investigations seem to have had
an impact. A duck boat stalled out on the Delaware River just days
before the settlement and a rescue boat was there in four minutes,
Duffy said. Had that been available on July 7, 2010, the stalled
boat would have been rescued before the barge had a chance to run
it over, he said.
New York-based Ronai & Ronai also served as plaintiffs
John Snyder of Rawle & Henderson in Philadelphia represented
Ride the Ducks and Thomas Canevari of Freehill Hogan & Mahar in
New York represented K-Sea Transportation. Neither of the defense
attorneys were immediately available for comment.