Family of NY teen swept to sea: Tour company didn’t properly vet leader for Hawaii trip

HONOLULU, Hawaii – Lawyers for the family of a New York teen killed during a kayak excursion in Hawaii last year said Tuesday that the trip’s organizers didn’t properly vet or train its leader.

Lawyers for the family of Tyler Madoff, 15, said Tuesday in federal court in Hawaii that Bold Earth Teen Adventures ignored or didn’t know about marijuana and alcohol use by trip leader Andrew Mork, and ignored safety rules for a state park on Hawaii’s Big Island where Madoff died when he was swept out to sea.

“This young man never, ever, ever should have been in charge of children,” said Loretta Sheehan, an attorney for Tyler’s father, Michael Madoff.

Lawyers for Mork and Colorado-based Bold Earth Teen Adventures declined to comment to The Associated Press after the court hearing in Honolulu.

The details surfaced as attorneys argued whether potential punitive damages in the wrongful death lawsuit would be guided by Hawaii or Colorado laws.

U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway has already ruled twice this year that the case must move forward in Hawaii and not in the state where Bold Earth is based. She said she would likely decide by next week on whether the case would be governed by Hawaii laws on punitive damages, which are less favourable for defendants than in Colorado.

“What happens if every company that offers recreational activity in Hawaii decided to incorporate in Colorado and incorporate at least some activities in Hawaii,” Mollway said.

Douglas Stevens, a lawyer for Bold Earth, said Madoff’s family agreed in their contract arranging the trip that issues would be resolved under Colorado law. He said the language was clear in the contract.

Mollway previously rejected a similar argument the company made for moving the case, saying the contract’s clause was not enforceable.

Sheehan said Tuesday that Bold Earth didn’t perform a proper background check on Mork, which would have found three marijuana-related convictions. She said Mork was also kicked out of a bar on the Big Island while there for a previous trip for the company in 2011.

Sheehan said that while on the excursion, the group took too many people and stayed too long in the park, and didn’t know about warnings of high surf.


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