Judge rules maritime law to cap damages does not apply to Ride the Ducks sinking

FILE - In this July 23, 2018 file photo, the duck boat that sank in Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo. Ripley Entertainment, the company that owns the Ride the Ducks operation in Branson asked a judge Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, to dismiss some of the lawsuits filed after one of its boats sank in a Missouri lake in July, killing 17 people. Survivors and relatives of those who died on the boat have filed several lawsuits against Ripley Entertainment and five other businesses. (Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader via AP, File)

REPUBLIC, Mo. -- A judge ruled against Ripley Entertainment and the maker of the Ride the Duck boats following the 2018 sinking in Table Rock Lake.

The federal just ruled the company is not protected by an 1850s law that would have prevented them from owing any damages in lawsuits filed against them. Ripley and Ride the Ducks International wanted an 1851 maritime law to cap the damages at no more than the value of the boat that sank, which is $0. But a federal judge says the companies are not protected by that law because Table Rock Lake is not a navigable waterway.

The companies are already appealing the ruling. The sinking of the Ride the Ducks killed 17 people. Survivors and families filed 33 lawsuits. Most of them have been settled out of court.

The general manager, the operations supervisor and the captain of the duck boat all face criminal charges in the sinking.