(CN) – New York state can be sued in connection to the fatal wreck of a Lake George tour boat overloaded with more than three times too many passengers.
The Ethan Allen sank on Lake George in 2005 while carrying 48 people. Though 48 was designated as the ship’s maximum capacity, the National Transportation Safety Board determined after the accident that the limit should have been 14 people.
The survivors of the accident, as well as families of the 20 passengers who died, sued New York for negligently allowing the boat to be overloaded.
New York claimed sovereign immunity, and the plaintiffs moved to block the affirmative defense. The trial court dismissed both motions, and the case proceeded to the Albany-based Third District New York Appellate Division.
In an opinion written by Justice Leslie Stein, the appellate division ruled that New York had failed to use its discretionary powers to regulate the boat capacity, so it cannot claim immunity from the legal action.
“Defendant has not submitted any evidence that its inspectors ever independently verified the appropriate number of passengers who could safely travel on the vessel or engaged in any exercise of reasoned judgment to determine whether such verification was necessary or appropriate,” Stein wrote.