It’s almost been two years since 14-year-old teens Perry Cohen and Austin Stephanos were lost at sea in a storm off the coast of Florida, and, although they have not been found, there is a new wrinkle to the story.
Pamela Cohen and Carly Black are now speaking out through their lawyers, as Black has sought a seemingly self-defensive federal maritime court action to limit her own liability in the death of Perry Cohen and to prevent the Cohen family from seeking potentially unlimited damages in a wrongful death lawsuit hinging on evidence of Black’s negligence.
According to the Palm Beach Post, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) has revealed that Black showed an “egregious lapse in judgment and failure to exercise due care” in allowing the teens to go boating “minimally equipped” that fateful day.
People reports that Black waited more than two hours after she realized the teens were missing to notify Pamela Cohen, and that she did not notify law enforcement.
The FDLE report says that the boat was “minimally equipped” with safety gear and communications devices although Carly Black’s husband Bubba Black owns a marine supply company.
“[She allowed them to] go offshore into the Atlantic Ocean, an inherently dangerous environment, in a minimally equipped 19-foot boat with a single outboard motor without adult or parental supervision,” the report reads.
Devastatingly, the reports concludes, such equipment “would have made a successful rescue infinitely more probable.”
Carly Black did not comment, but her lawyer George Harris did.
“Carly has also suffered the loss of her son, Austin, in addition to the loss of his friend, Perry, as a result of this tragedy,” he said. “There will be an appropriate occasion for Carly to address the issues contained in the report, but, because of civil litigation, and based upon the advice of her legal counsel, this is not the appropriate time or occasion to do so.”
Pamela Cohen’s lawyer Guy Rubin, on the other hand, says it is “irrefutable” that “Austin [Stephanos’] parents knew that Perry was not supposed to go out of the inlet unsupervised.”
Here was that full statement:
Pamela Cohen is a grieving mother in search of answers to her son’s disappearance. Last week, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) concluded its investigation into the disappearance of Perry J. Cohen and his friend Austin. The new revelations in the FDLE report paint a stark picture, one characterized by a calamity of errors in judgment and missteps that could have potentially averted this tragic loss of life. As she and her family process the FDLE report and new information regarding the boys’ disappearance, Ms. Cohen requests her privacy be respected.
While appreciative of efforts by FDLE and FWC, important questions remain unanswered and the actions of those involved must be held accountable. Since the active phase FDLE’s investigation, Ms. Cohen continues to be forced to defend her legal rights in a federal maritime action brought by Austin’s mother, Mrs. Carly Black. That court action seeks to limit the value of all losses, including the lives of Perry and Austin, to $500.00, and would restrict Ms. Cohen’s legal rights to further seek justice. Ms. Cohen is committed to pursuing the truth in a manner that affirms her rights as a parent and respects the life and memory of her son, Perry, and his friend Austin.
The Palm Beach Post adds that if the Cohen family filed a civil suit and proved negligence, there would be no limit to the amount of damages they could seek, but added that the timeline of events remains a key factor.
Wrongful death lawsuits have to be filed within two years of their occurrence in Florida.
Investigators say that although there is evidence of child neglect, the state has not filed charges because there is not enough proof “to satisfy the statutory language.”