The family of Perry Cohen, a teenager who disappeared during a fishing trip with friend Austin Stephanos off the coast of Florida two years ago, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the other family.
We’ve learned Perry Cohen’s parents will file a wrongful death suit as soon as next week, according to family attorney Guy Rubin.
While he says they are still determining who will be named as defendants in that suit, we know Austin Stephanos’ mom, Carly Black, had already filed a federal lawsuit in anticipation of being sued.
We are also learning, the Cohens may have to win twice to make it count.
“They could win in state court and then come in and be stopped in federal court in the limitation action,” said Joanne Foster who is bar certified in Admiralty and Maritime Law.
NewsChannel 5 exclusively reported last month that Black is trying to use an old maritime law to protect her from being sued by the Cohens for more than the value of the boys’ recovered boat, in this case, $500.
This week, a federal judge put that case on hold and allowed the Cohens to move forward with their lawsuit
in state court, on one condition.
“That they would not pursue collecting on that judgment until the limitation action has been decided in federal court,” explained Foster.
That means if the Cohens do win in state court, according to Foster, the only way to collect anything more than the $500 is to go back to federal court to try and prove that Carly Black was negligent, which would negate her claim that she is entitled to cap her liability.
“Did she have privity or knowledge of the actions that they were taking, did she know that when the boat left the dock that day, that it wasn’t seaworthy? Those are the things that are going to be examined by the court after the state wrongful death action is decided,” explained Foster.
The timing of this week’s federal order came at a crucial time.
There is a two-year deadline to file a wrongful death suit in state court, according to Rubin. That deadline is in two weeks, the two-year anniversary of the boys’ disappearance.
NewsChannel 5 has reached out to both families for comment. Below is a statement on behalf of Carly Black.