New York Suit Settled against Boat Company in Capsizing

August 14, 2009

Liability claims have been settled against the tour company that arranged a fall foliage excursion in which 20 passengers were killed when their tour boat overturned on an Adirondack lake in 2005.

Terms of the settlement between Shoreline Travel & Tours Inc. and the families of 17 victims were sealed.

The 40-foot Ethan Allen was carrying 47 passengers and the captain when it suddenly tipped over in clear, sunny weather on Oct. 2, 2005, sending screaming tourists into Lake George. Nineteen of those killed were from Michigan; one person was from Ohio.

Calls to the Canadian tour company’s attorney, Andrew Sapon, were not immediately returned Monday.

Lead plaintiff attorney James Hacker said the only remaining claims in federal court are against the Lake George Steamboat Co. The company denies that the wake from its larger boat, the Mohican, contributed to the capsizing on a clear, calm autumn day.

“Senior citizens had packed this boat before,” Hacker said. “It never went over. The question is what are the circumstances this particular day that caused the boat to capsize.”

Ethan Allen owner James Quirk settled claims in 2008 against his company Shoreline Cruises Inc., its affiliate Quirk’s Marine Rentals and boat captain Richard Paris for undisclosed terms. Shoreline continues to operate its other tour boats on Lake George.

In May, U.S. District Judge Thomas McAvoy dismissed liability claims against Scarano Boat Building, which modified the Ethan Allen in 1989, saying there was no way to determine whether the replacement wooden canopy it installed made the boat less stable since there was little information about its previous canvas top.

A separate suit against New York state, faulting its annual safety inspections of the Ethan Allen, is pending in the New York Court of Claims. State attorneys have requested the suit’s dismissal, saying New York officials are immune from claims.

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