Details surface on Schlitterbahn’s Verruckt settlement with Schwab family

The science behind Schlitterbahn’s Verrückt

Schlitterbahn’s tallest water slide is guided by energy, acceleration and the laws of physics.
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Schlitterbahn’s tallest water slide is guided by energy, acceleration and the laws of physics.

The three brothers of Caleb Schwab, the 10-year-old who died last year at Schlitterbahn Vacation Village in Kansas City, Kan., will receive lifetime settlement payments.

That’s according to a transcript of a hearing held Wednesday to approve the wrongful death settlement for the Schwab family. The Star requested an expedited transcript of the proceedings that its reporters were not able to attend; the hearing took place in Johnson County District Court in Olathe 22 minutes after the petition was filed.

Scott Schwab, a Kansas House representative from Olathe and Caleb’s father, testified at the hearing held before Johnson County Judge Thomas Sutherland. Schwab answered affirmatively a question by his attorney about whether an exhibit shown to him in the hearing reflected how structured payments would be made to his three sons over the course of their lifetimes.

Schwab also took a series of additional questions posed by his attorney Michael Rader on topics ranging from the steps his legal team took to investigate the incident to Schwab’s involvement in mediation and negotiation sessions leading up to the settlement. Schwab spoke in mostly one-word responses, usually answering “yes” to his attorney’s questions.

Christopher Turney, an attorney for Zebec of North America, the manufacturer of a raft that carried passengers down the 17-story Verrückt water slide where Caleb died Aug. 7, briefly cross-examined Schwab to verify whether his wife, Michelle Schwab, understood the terms of the settlement.

Michelle Schwab did not appear at the hearing and was allowed to provide testimony in a written affidavit, which is not part of the public record.

“I have a lot of respect for how you’ve handled these circumstances and thank you for being here today,” Turney told Schwab at the end of his questioning.

The amount of payments to the Schwab family remains unknown publicly. Written exhibits that contain the terms of the settlement also do not appear in the public record. An attorney for Schwab handed Judge Sutherland a check from an insurance company, but not before Sutherland reminded him not to specify the amount in open court.

Wednesday’s hearing settled civil claims against the amusement park’s owner and Zebec of North America.

Rader, one of Schwab’s attorneys, said in a statement earlier this week that additional claims were being pursued against other parties.

Schwab retained Rader of Leawood law firm Bartimus Frickleton Robertson and Todd Scharnhorst of Scharnhorst Ast Kennard Griffin on an agreement they would receive 33 percent of settlement proceeds, an amount that falls squarely in line with what trial lawyers are paid if they handle cases on contingency, rather than through hourly rates.

Schwab’s legal team had retained eight experts in the fields of mechanical engineering, computer forensics, biomechanical engineering, video animation, computer forensics, textile engineering and a restraint expert.

Wednesday’s settlement was reached after the parties held a mediation session, followed by negotiations.

Steve Vockrodt: 816-234-4277, @st_vockrodt