Attorney General Hawley fires back in Duck Boat case

Duck Boat being raised from bottom of lake

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley fired back in court filings arguing the court should not dismiss the lawsuit filed against Ripley Entertainment, Inc. and Branson Duck Vehicles, LLC alleging violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, Missouri’s principal consumer protection statute. The filings also argue that the Circuit Court of Taney County is the proper venue for the case.

Earlier this month, Ripley Entertainment and Branson Duck Vehicles filed motions to dismiss the case and sought to move it to federal court. Today’s filings argue these actions were designed to “hamper and delay the State’s enforcement action” as well as “thwart judicial review of their actions and evade any court order that would bar them from resuming the operation of their deadly enterprise.”

Seventeen people drowned while on a tour of Table Rock Lake when their duck boat sank during severe weather, on July 19. In August, the Attorney General’s Office filed a petition to enjoin the two companies from operating duck boats in Missouri. The petition also cites safety violations that are alleged to have occurred that day.

“The Attorney General’s petition focuses on the Defendants’ egregiously fraudulent, misleading, and deceptive trade practices that led directly to the deaths of seventeen people, including five children and seven senior citizens. In committing such outrageous actions of deceit, misleading statements, fraudulent concealment, and unfair trade practices in connection with commercial operations, Defendants are not subject to regulation and oversight of the U.S. Coast Guard. Their misconduct is regulated by the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act and subject to the oversight of the Missouri Attorney General,” the State’s Opposition the Motion to Dismiss states. 

“Protecting Missouri consumers is hugely important to this office,” Hawley said. “This tragedy should not have happened—and we must do all that we can to ensure it cannot happen again.”

A copy of the filings can be read here and here.