On July 26, 2019, Karen Koehler of Stritmatter Kessler Koehler Moore was honored with the Mel Award, in San Diego, California. Her work in the four-months long Ride the Ducks trial, resulting in a $123 million verdict, was an extraordinary and nationally recognized achievement in advocacy.
The Stritmatter Firm was tickled pink when this years’ Washington State Super Lawyers magazine cover story profiled Karen Koehler for her “frequently unconventional” yet compelling trial strategies including the unprecedented Ride the Ducks verdict.
Stritmatter Law Firm: Press release
April 29, 2019
Re: The 40 members of the Dinh Group, Moody Family, Leina Family and Ride the Ducks Settlement of $123 M Trial Verdict and Pending Litigation.
Today the appeal of the $123 Million jury verdict in the case of Dinh v. Ride the Ducks et al. reached on February 7, 2019, was dropped by Ride the Ducks Seattle and Ride the Ducks International (Branson, Missouri).
The marathon four month trial involved a group of 44 plaintiffs from around the world who were killed or injured as a result of the September 24, 2015, amphibious touring vehicle versus North Seattle College motor coach disaster on the Aurora Bridge.
During trial four plaintiffs settled early for $8.5 Million – the largest of those amounts compensating the family of Ivan Putradanto, an Indonesian student who was heir to the family’s large business. A fifth plaintiff partially settled before closing argument for $4 Million to compensate the family of HaRam Kim, a Korean student who had hoped to one day become a physician.
Five more plaintiffs joined the Dinh Group too late and were not allowed to participate in the trial. As part of today’s settlement, those claims are settling for another $5.8 Million – including a small portion paid by the State of Washington and City of Seattle.
According to lead attorney Karen Koehler, following the verdict the clients and co-counsel remained undaunted even after Ride the Ducks appealed the verdict.
“Our clients were traumatized for years following the crash. Up until trial neither of the Ducks defendants would admit that they had any role in causing the disaster. The jury’s verdict means so much to the plaintiffs. It is an acknowledgment by our community – that each and every plaintiff has been terribly wronged and harmed. We intended to fight the appeal all the way.”
Upon learning that the insurers for the Ducks companies would pay most of the verdict Koehler said her clients cried with relief. “They will never forget what happened. They will live with the scars, physical disabilities, mental images and emotional trauma forever. But now they do not have to worry about waiting years for the appeal to end. They can at least shut the lawsuit door.”
After the Seattle tragedy Ride the Ducks International sold its Branson Missouri operation to Ripley’s Entertainment in 2017. Then in the summer of 2018, 17 people died when a duck sank on Table Rock Lake. Ripley’s has now decided to forever close down the duck operation in Branson and is converting its property into a laser tag interactive maze.
Ride the Ducks Seattle continues to operate.
The Ride the Ducks trial team was led by Karen Koehler, followed by second chair Andrew Ackley. Garth Jones, Lisa Benedetti and Melanie Nguyen were a vital part of the trial team. Jesica McClure and Debra Watt were lead paralegals on the case.
Some of the members of our group were also represented by co-counsel. We are grateful for their trust in us to lead and try this important case:
Alex S. Chun (Seohee Bak and Min Kyeong Kang), Richard Benedetti (Don Clouse), Matt Dubin (Rhonda Cooley and JoAnn Gerke), Tim Loranger (Derschmidt Family), Arthur Leritz and Melissa Carter (Jennifer Emery and Sarah Johnson), Bradley Johnson and Brian Krikorian (Timothy and Susan Gesner), Doug Phillips (Mazda Hutapea and Yuta Masumoto), Ron Maidenberg (Greg Moody, Patricia Moody, and Kathleen Moody), Anthony Marsh (Florencia Irena, Jae Won Jang, Privando Putradanto, and Na Ra Yoon), Dan Williams (HaRam Kim), Jongwon Yi (Young Ki Kim, Yunsu Kim, Sang Woo Kim, Young Yee Lee, Jae Young Park, and Jin Young Park), Jeff Hightower (Alena Lutz), David Rovang (Tam Nguyen), Wangjin Kim (Minje Sa and Kwang Park), Patrick Kang (Kathy Sheldon, Ron Sheldon, Rick Sheldon, and Terry Sheldon), Chris Jackman (Yu Zhuang), and Brad Moore and Bojan Dekker (Fenna Zielinski and Gunter Zielinski).
For more information about this case, click here.
For inquiries contact:
Stritmatter Kessler Koehler Moore
Our state’s Wrongful Death bill was completely overhauled today in a landslide vote by the legislature.
After five international students were killed in the Ride the Ducks Aurora Bridge crash, the community was upset to learn that the claims of the students over the age of 18 who did not have dependents (children) was strictly limited because of an ancient law whose roots were traced to racist rationale. Washington was one of only three states to still have wrongful death laws like this on the books.
Just minutes after the first firefighter arrived, officials declared the crash an “MCI—Mass Casualty Incident.” An MCI is an event where first responders are forced to suspend normal operations, such as normal recordkeeping, because there are too many victims to treat. Patients need to be triaged—sorted based on the severity of their injuries.
The worst mass transit disaster in Seattle history was unlike anything before it. An amphibious vehicle full of tourists broke an axle and rammed into a motor coach full of sightseeing international students. Three and half years later, 40 of the victims of the crash represented by Stritmatter Firm trial counsel obtained a record-setting $123 million verdict. These are the stories of the unimaginable carnage and loss, and the civil justice system at work. For more on the Ride the Ducks case and trial, see our Ride the Ducks page.
“Trial News,” the monthly publication by the Washington State Association for Justice, featured the Ride the Ducks case on its entire front page for March 2019. The publication ran the transcript from Karen Koehler’s closing argument in real, raw form. Paired with the “illustrative exhibits” from trial depicting the plaintiffs on each vehicle, Ms. Koehler’s closing emphasizes the preventability of this tragedy. She reimagines a world in which the defendants took any one of numerous opportunities to do right. Unfortunately, they did not.
Both Ride the Ducks International (amphibious vehicle manufacturer) and Ride the Ducks Seattle (operator) have appealed the February 7, 2019 $123 million verdict against them.