First Lawsuits Filed Today in Branson, Missouri Duck Boat Disaster


Devastated families want justice for the victims and the duck boats permanently banned.

KANSAS CITY, MO (July 30, 2018) – The process of seeking justice for victims of the Branson, Missouri duck boat disaster, the worst in American history, began today with the filing of the first lawsuits in U.S. District Court here on behalf of the late Ervin ‘Uncle Ray’ Coleman, 76, and his great-nephew, two-year-old Maxwell Coleman Ly. They were two of the nine members of the Indianapolis Rose-Coleman family that drowned in the ‘predictable and preventable’ July 19th tragedy on Table Rock Lake.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs, in announcing the start of litigation (Estates of Ervin Coleman and Maxwell Coleman Ly vs. Ripley Entertainment, Inc., et al., United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri 6:18-cv-03225) said they would be filing additional related lawsuits in the near future. The defendants include the present and immediate past duck boat tour operators that collectively run the largest duck boat fleet in the country. The attorneys, in noting a $100 million damages claim as part of the filing, said ultimately that is an issue for a jury to decide. Attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi stated that no amount would adequately compensate those impacted by this horrific and irrevocable loss of life, and ultimately hopes the litigation permanently ends the use of duck boats, thus sparing others the pain and heartache they are experiencing.

Besides Ervin Coleman and Maxwell, attorneys from the law firms Saltz, Mongeluzzi & Bendesky, P.C., (Philadelphia, PA) and Aleshire Robb &Rapp (Springfield, MO), also jointly represent the estates of Horace “Butch” Coleman, his wife, Belinda ‘Toni” Coleman, and their daughter Angela “Angiee” Coleman, among the 17 passengers who died in the disaster. The trial lawyers will also be filing – as administrative-related documents are processed – additional law suits on behalf of other victims in the near future.

“At the request of our clients, today we formally begin the search for answers and justice for the victims of a disaster caused by an industry that placed profits over safety and the precious lives of their passengers,” said SMB attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi at a news conference following the filing. “The quest for justice includes doing everything within our power to ban duck boats once and for all. As we have done in other duck boat wrongful death cases, we will demonstrate at trial why duck boats are death traps and why they should once and for all be banned from operating on water and on land.”

He said the clients “strongly urged us to do everything possible to ban the duck boats so no other family has to endure the unimaginable tragedy and grief that has devastated them.”

Attorney Andrew R. Duffy, SMB legal team member, stated, “As asserted in the complaint, the defendants absolutely knew for decades that fatal design flaws, particularly the continuous, rigid canopy and inadequate bilge pumps, in the World War II-era boats made them more susceptible to sinking and that they were unfit for use even on a clear, calm day. Despite their knowledge, Ride the Ducks violated its own safety protocols by failing to even issue life jackets to passengers as the storm approached.”

Attorney Jeffrey P. Goodman, of SMB, added, “While no amount of damages can compensate for the loss of a human life, it should be noted that the complaint includes a well-documented claim against the defendants for punitive damages based on their repeated, reckless and repugnant actions. Motivated by profits, they consciously decided as the storm approached that capturing revenue – based on a $40 ticket – was more important than passenger safety. Rather than cancel the water portion of the trip and issue refunds, they made an intentional decision to try to beat the storm.”

Named as initial defendants in the multi-count complaint are:

  • Ripley Entertainment, Inc. – Orlando, FL
  • Ride the Ducks International LLC – Jefferson City, MO
  • Ride the Ducks of Branson, LLC – Branson, MO
  • Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation – Branson, MO
  • Amphibious Vehicle Manufacturing, LLC. – Branson, MO

Ripley Entertainment International purchased the Branson duck boat operation from Herschend last December.

Mr. Mongeluzzi stated that the reckless disregard for safety by Ride The Ducks was on display nearly two decades ago when it ignored safety concerns raised by the NTSB.

The clients are also represented by Missouri co-counsel Attorney Gregory Aleshire, Attorney William R. Robb, and Attorney Kevin J. Rapp.

Ervin’s brother, John Coleman, is acting as administrator of his estate. Maxwell’s great aunts, Lisa D. Barry and Marlo Rose Wells, are the administrators of his estate. They are also sisters of Belinda Coleman, among the nine family members who died.


Steph Rosenfeld / / 215.514.4101

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