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Negligence Alleged in Florida Boating Accident That Killed Two Teens

Florida is a boater’s paradise, but it quickly became a nightmare for the parents of two teen boys who disappeared off the coast of Jupiter in the midst of a fierce Atlantic storm. The 19-foot boat they took was recovered months later, empty. The boys have never been found. boating accident

Now, the parents of one of those teens are eyeing a wrongful death lawsuit against the other, after a new state report alleges negligence for failure to exercise reasonable care in allowing the teens to go out into the water on an ill-equipped boat in poor weather conditions with no adult supervision. However, the prospective defendants of the case say they did not allow their son to take the boat out that day, and should not be liable for the other boy’s death.

Florida does not require a boating license for any operator. However, if a boater was born on or after Jan. 1, 1988, they will be required to complete a boater’s safety education course if they operate a boat with 10 hp or more. Most providers of these courses have no minimum age, and do not require participants to be Florida residents.

The question in this tragic case will really boil down to whether the boys were properly supervised. Although negligent supervision is a tort that could apply in a variety of contexts (think construction site managers or trucking carriers overseeing many drivers), it can also refer to failure to control a child. What must be proven is the adult knew or should have known the child needed to be controlled and/ or protected, and failed to do so, resulting in injury. 

It’s well understood that children are naturally curious and often try to test their limits. This is true to varying degrees whether the child is 6 or 16. The two boys in this case were 14.

Our Fort Myers child injury lawyers know that these cases are not always straightforward, which is why the require the assistance of an attorney with extensive experience. Also in this case, because we’re dealing with wrongful death rather than personal injury, the statute of limitations (the time you have in which to file your lawsuit) is shortened to two years rather than the usual four.

Although the parents of the boy who did not own the boat are considering legal action, they have not yet done so, though they have been adversaries with the other parents since the boys disappeared. An attorney representing the potential plaintiff said it was “irrefutable” that the other parents knew their son’s friend was not allowed to go out into the inlet on a boat unsupervised. The two families have been embroiled in another legal argument over damages, due to the Limitation Act, which is a maritime law that limits the amount of monetary damages for which passengers on a boat can use the owner/ operator. The act limits damages to the value of the boat after it is salvaged – which in this case is just $500. However, if the prospective plaintiffs can prove the other parents were negligent, they will not be limited in the damages they can obtain.

However, the prospective plaintiffs say this is not about money for them. Rather, they want the truth and they want accountability. The mother/ potential defendant said when interviewed by authorities that it was common for the two to go fishing together, and it was her belief that their deaths were the result of a tragic “mishap.” The new report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement holds that the potential defendant allowed the teens to venture off into what was an inherently dangerous environment with a boat that was not properly equipped or supervised. The pair didn’t even have a radio or GPS device.

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has classified the death of the two boys as “weather-related.”

Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.

Additional Resources:

Missing teens: FDLE revelations could trigger lawsuit, June 19, 2017, By Bill DiPaolo, Palm Beach Post

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