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Second family sues Ride the Ducks

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A second family whose relatives were killed in the July 19 Ride the Ducks accident filed suit.

Plaintiffs Michelle Chaffer, Rebekah Whittington and Christina Taylor, whose parents William and Janice Bright died, in the suit named Ride the Ducks Branson owner Ripley Entertainment Inc., Ride the Ducks International LLC, and Ride the Ducks employees Kenneth McKee and Robert Williams, according to the petition in Taney County Circuit Court.

Ripley Entertainment reportedly purchased Ride the Ducks Branson from Ride the Ducks International, which was owned by Herschend Family Entertainment, according to a separate lawsuit filed July 29.

The latest suit filed on behalf of the Brights also named McKee, who according to the suit, operated the vessel, and Williams, the reported co-captain of the boat that capsized on Table Rock Lake. Williams died in the accident along with 16 passengers.

The suit alleges Ripley, Ride the Ducks, McKee and Williams are guilty on counts of wrongful death and negligence. In each of the five counts, the Brights’ daughters seek an excess of $25,000, as well as judgments for funeral expenses and emotional damages, according to the court documents provided by Tina Monroe of the Taney County circuit clerk’s office.

“Defendants were well aware of the approaching storm, but rather than lose out on profit, they chose to try and beat the storm,” the suit alleges, noting, in multiple counts, the court proceedings are meant to bring “punitive damages in an amount to punish defendant and to deter it and others from like conduct.”

The suit alleged Ripley and Ride the Ducks International are culpable because they knowingly allowed an unsafe vessel — with a nonremovable canopy and insufficient buoyancy — to travel on Table Rock Lake despite severe weather warnings and conditions.

The suit accuses McKee and Williams of being negligent in their operation of the vehicle.

“Defendants’ conduct showed complete indifference to or conscious disregard for the safety of others, including decedents William and Janice Bright,” the suit reads. “Defendants RTDI and Ripley Entertainment are vicariously liable for the negligent acts and/or omissions committed by defendants Kenneth McKee and Robert Williams.”

Further, the suit makes the case for emotional damages by stating the Brights were celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary.

“William and Janice, parents of three girls and grandparents to 16, had a lot to celebrate after 45 years of marriage,” according to the legal documents.

Like the suit filed July 28, the latest litigation also points to previous casualties involving Ride the Ducks amphibious vehicles.

The daughters of the Brights are represented by Kansas City firms McGonagle Spencer Gahagan PC and Norman & Graves Trial Attorneys, according to the suit.

The lawsuit filed July 28 by Philadelphia-based Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky PC seeks at least $100 million in damages. Filed on behalf of two of nine members of an Indiana family who died in the July 19 accident, the litigation alleges the Ride the Ducks boats are dangerous and that officials used them despite knowing of crucial design issues and knowledge of the upcoming storm on Table Rock Lake.

Ripley spokeswoman Suzanne Smagala-Potts yesterday said since the company is cooperating with the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into the accident, it is “not allowed to comment on anything.”

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