On July 24, 2015, two teenage boys from Palm Beach County took a small boat out into the open seas of the Atlantic Ocean. They were on a simple mission to catch some fish, but unfortunately, the boys never returned home. Two families were left to mourn the loss of the boys and find a way to come to terms with the fact that they may never be able to even lay the bodies to rest, as they were never recovered from the sea.
Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos were the two friends who were lost at sea that day. Now, one of the mothers of the boys, Pamela Cohen, is filling a wrongful death suit against the family of Stephanos, the boy whose family owned the boat and in whose care the boys were at the time of the incident. She claims that Carly Black, mother of Stephanos, was negligent in allowing the boys to go offshore that day in an ill-equipped boat, and Black’s delay in notifying authorities of the disappearance of the boys caused the search effort to start hours later than it should, causing the loss of critical time. As Cohen’s attorney says, “This lawsuit is about truth, accountability, and justice.”
Florida Department of Law Enforcement Investigation
Prior to the filling of the wrongful death lawsuit, an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement explained that Black showed an “egregious lack of judgment and failure to execute due care” the day that she allowed the boys to go fishing in the open ocean on a 1978 19-foot SeaCraft vessel that was not properly equipped with any GPS, radio, or emergency beacon. Black also knew that Cohen’s parents did not permit him to go offshore in a boat without an adult, and she waited two hours before notifying his parents, and did not notify law enforcement when she realized the boys were missing. Instead of a call to emergency agencies, Blu Stephanos, Austin’s dad, used his own boat to search for the boys, causing a delay in the official duties of the search in critical moments. According to the report, these actions impeded the search and rescue efforts for the boys.
Stephanos had also discussed fishing for Dolphin, known to be an offshore fish, with his grandfather, Richard Kuntz, who gave the boy $100 for gas for the boat, implicating another family member in the group of adults who allegedly knew about the boys’ intentions to go into open waters.
Despite the evidence of negligence on the part of Stephanos’ family, the State Attorney declined to file criminal charges against Carly Black for child negligence. The reasoning was that boating on open seas is not an “inherently dangerous activity” for a criminal child neglect charge. Stephanos’ father denies any negligence as he claims he did not know that the boys had gone out that day due to the fact that he and Black are divorced and he was not present prior to the incident.
Wrongful Death Lawsuit
Because criminal charges were not filed against Stephanos’ family, Cohen’s mother filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit against the parents and grandfather. In the lawsuit, she claims that the adult defendants are guilty of negligent entrustment, breach of custodian and parental trust, negligent supervision, and negligent undertaking of search.
In a wrongful death suit, the plaintiff must prove that there was a death due to the negligent actions of another. Cohen’s family claims that this was an avoidable loss that could have been prevented if Stephanos’ family had not been negligent in allowing the boys to go offshore that day, and had not impeded the official search by conducting their own in the crucial time period following the disappearance. It is possible that Stephanos’ family may have also known about an impending storm that blew through the Atlantic that day, which could have been what sunk the boat used by the boys. Unfortunately, nothing can be done to bring the boys back, but a wrongful death lawsuit may help bring accountability to this tragedy.
If you have lost a loved one due to the negligence of another, it’s important to contact an experienced wrongful death attorney. Your attorney may be able to help you recover financially from the event, and help bring accountability to the unfortunate situation.
Lesley, D. S. (2017, July 24). Mom of Florida Teen Missing at Sea with Friend Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against Other Boy’s Family. Retrieved July 27, 2017, from http://people.com/human-interest/pamela-cohen-files-wrongful-death-lawsuit/
Perry Cohen’s Family Files Wrongful Death Suit Against Friend’s Relatives. (2017, July 24). Retrieved July 27, 2017, from http://www.newsmax.com/TheWire/perry-cohen-wrongful-death-lawsuit/2017/07/24/id/803385/