Missouri AG sues Ride the Ducks in Branson, alleging company tried to avoid refunds

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BRANSON NEWS: Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley added to the mounting legal problems facing the owner of Ride the Ducks in Branson by filing a lawsuit on Friday accusing the company of deceit and fraud by “targeting” tourists to ride boats that weren’t safe.

Hawley’s office says in a 29-page complaint that Ripley Entertainment, which bought the Branson operation of Ride the Ducks in late 2017, knew its duck boats had design problems and still took 29 passengers out onto Table Rock Lake on July 19, despite the threat of severe weather, in order to avoid paying refunds.

One of the duck boats succumbed to a thunderstorm that produced wind in excess of 70 miles per hour — more than twice the wind speeds that the boats are designed to handle — sinking the vessel to the depths of the lake. Of the 31 people aboard, including the boat’s captain and driver, 17 died.

Hawley’s lawsuit alleges violations of the Missouri Merchandising Practices Act, which forbids fraud and deception in the sale of goods and services. Hawley’s office previously disclosed that it opened a criminal investigation under the same act, but in Friday’s lawsuit opted to seek civil penalties and restitution against Ripley Entertainment.

“This tragedy should not have happened,” Hawley said in a statement. “As Missouri’s top law enforcement officer, I am charged with protecting Missouri consumers. My hope is that this lawsuit will ensure that unsafe duck boats and companies who put profits ahead of safety will not continue to operate. Consumers have a reasonable expectation of safety and that was not met on July 19.”

July’s tragedy was the deadliest duck boat incident since the 1999 sinking of a duck boat on an Arkansas lake that killed 13 passengers. In the years that followed, the National Transportation Safety Board made several recommendations …


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