Back in 2015, fourteen-year old friends Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos went out on a fishing trip near their homes in Tequesta, Florida and never returned. The highly publicized sixteen day search for the duo was unsuccessful and now, on the two year anniversary of their disappearance, the mother of Perry Cohen has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the parents of Austin Stephanos. On the day of their disappearance, there was a major storm that is believed to have sunk their vessel, which was discovered two days later.
The Miami Herald reports on the lawsuit: "If he was not permitted to travel into the ocean, against his mother's explicit wishes, and despite promises she received from defendants that they would honor her wishes, Perry would be alive today...Responsible parents would have checked the weather before letting the kids go out. Responsible parents would have respected the directions and trust given to them by parents of a child in their custody. "
While the boys were both loved to fish and grew up in the water, Cohen's wrongful death lawsuit details the difference between where she thought the boys were fishing (on the shore of the river) and where the family of Stephanos allowed the boys to go alone on a day when the weather was less than ideal.
This emotional lawsuit begs the question: can you file a wrongful death lawsuit when there is no body?
Whatever happened to Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos is a tragedy on many levels and the fact that their bodies were never found makes closure even harder for their loved ones. Boat and airplane accidents are two situations that can result in deaths in which a body is never discovered. When there is no direct proof of a death (i.e. a body), each state has laws in place that define a presumptive death. For instance, in the state of California where we practice wrongful death law, there is a five year period in which an individual is not seen or heard from after attempts for there to be a presumption that he or she died. There are exceptions to this time frame based on a showing of evidence that the death occurred.
In the case of Cohen and Stephanos, a death certificate has been issued in order for them to file the wrongful death case and the case will require a showing that it was the negligence of the parents that ultimately caused the death of Cohen.
If you are dealing with the wrongful death of a loved one, we are here to help. At Walch Law, we know how hard this time is for you and we are here to help with your legal and financial recovery. We have the experience you want fighting for you. Your first consultation with us is free and we are always available.