Jeffrey Tillman, of Missouri, died during a 2011 Key West, Florida championship powerboat race when he lost control of his boat, which did a reverse flip before crashing. The boat’s owner, 74 year old Robert Morgan, of Sunrise Beach, Missouri, was also killed in the accident.
Tillman’s family has brought suit against Super Boat International Productions Inc., which organized the race, and five race officials, claiming that the rescue effort was botched and that the boat was not fit to compete in the race. The suit also alleges that Morgan should not have been certified to participate in the race because he had a history of heart problems. Another powerboat racer, Joey Gratton, was killed in a different incident at the event when his boat flipped twice before partly capsizing. His family has also filed suit.
Wrongful death claims like those in the powerboat racing cases, are brought by surviving family members against the person who caused their loved one’s death. Because a dead person can’t sue for their injuries, a wrongful death claim is often the only recourse for surviving family members.
One potential problem for families like those in the boat racing accidents is that it’s very likely that the participants signed liability waivers before entering the competition. But that won’t necessarily sink the plaintiff’s cases. The law tends to frown on liability waivers because they take away an organization’s incentive to make sure that participants in their event are safe. And these waivers are often defective, providing little or no protection.
If your loved one has been killed in an accident at an event, you’ll need a competent Missouri personal injury attorney to help you determine whether your family has a viable wrongful death claim against the event organizers.