A 47 year old St. Charles County mother was vacationing with her family at the Lake of the Ozarks over the 4th of July holiday. The family rented a 26 foot Bayliner deck boat from a local boat rental company for a day on the water. The boat traffic on the Lake that holiday weekend was significant and there were waves over 6 feet high in the main channel. The lady’s husband had very little experience operating a boat and the rental company did not provide him with any real training or warnings about the hazards of boating during a busy holiday weekend. The husband was driving the boat through the main channel with his wife and kids sitting in front. The boat hit some huge waves straight on without throttling or slowing down throwing the lady in to the air. She landed hard on the seat on her tailbone and ended up with an L-1 burst fracture resulting in an incomplete spinal cord injury.
This lady was airlifted to a hospital and had to undergo a posterior lumbar decompression and fusion surgery with implanted hardware. Over the next couple years she had extensive therapy and rehab and had several other surgical procedures. She has daily pain and problems from her permanent injuries, but makes the best of things. She is no longer able to work and her medical bills were extensive.
This was a difficult situation for the family. The husband was probably traveling too fast for the conditions due to his inexperience. The boat rental company should not have sent the family out in the boat that day without training and instruction about how to handle the conditions. There were concerns about how to pay the bills, finding insurance coverage and, most importantly, the sticky situation about a wife having to bring a claim against her husband.
They needed legal help, so they contacted Kevin Sullivan of the Sauter Sullivan law firm. Things did not look promising at first from a legal standpoint, with all parties assuming the rental company’s insurance policy would not cover negligence of the renter of the boat. Sullivan did his due diligence and to everyone’s surprise found the boat rental company had two policies with operator negligence coverage. One included $1 Million in coverage, and the other included an additional $1 Million in excess coverage. The problem…the husband was the negligent operator, which meant the wife would have to file the claim against her husband! Of course, she didn’t want to sue her husband, but in light of the seriousness of her injuries and the lifetime of debilitation, pain and suffering she was facing, it was the only way she could recover damages. Without this insurance money, the family could be facing serious financial troubles in addition to everything else. Kevin Sullivan filed a claim against the insurance policies and was able to secure the $2 Million insurance money for his client and this family. Most importantly, he was able to do so without having to file a lawsuit against the husband.