Michael C. Rader and Michelle Marvel resolve case for family of the 10-year-old killed last summer on a local Kansas City waterslide. Settlements for the family totaled more than $19.7 million.
On Aug. 7, 2016, Caleb Schwab died while riding the Verruckt slide at Schlitterbahn, a water park in Kansas City. Verruckt, German for “insane,” was marketed as the world’s tallest waterslide at its 2014 opening. Schwab is the son of Kansas State Rep. Scott Schwab, R-Olathe. Scott Schwab, his wife, Michele Schwab, and the Estate of Caleb Schwab filed the wrongful death action.
On Jan. 11, the family settled with SVV 1 LLC, and KC Waterpark Management LLC, which collectively make up Schlitterbahn for $14 million, and with raft manufacturer Zebec of North America Inc. for $500,000. The settlement was approved by District Judge Thomas M. Sutherland. Sutherland approved a second round of settlements on April 12 with the National Aquatic Safety Co., a consulting firm, for $232,125; and with Henry & Sons Construction Co., which built the ride, for $5 million. Altogether, the settlements totaled $19,732,125.
Rader said retained experts were instrumental to obtaining the settlements. To help sift through theories of liability, he consulted with experts from fields including polymer fiber science, biomechanical engineering, computer forensics, accident reconstruction, warnings operations, restraint devices and ride design. Some of the design and testing of the slide occurred in Texas, allowing the plaintiffs to argue that Texas law applied. Rader said Texas’ law regarding noneconomic damage caps in child wrongful death claims is more favorable than that of Kansas. “We never could have made a viable argument that Texas law applied without first becoming well versed in the facts regarding the design, construction and operation of this ride,” he said.
After Schwab’s death, one of the most pressing issues the attorneys handled was an intense interest in the case by media outlets around the world. The young boy was decapitated when the raft in which he was riding became airborne and crashed into metal rods supporting the slide’s overhead netting, his attorneys said.