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$3.5 Million Wrongful Death Lawsuit Reached in Iowa State Rowing Accident Case


According to a report from the Ames Tribune, the estate of a deceased rower has reached a $3.5 million settlement in a wrongful death case against Iowa State University (ISU). Here, our Alkeny wrongful death lawyer explains what we know about the tragic incident, discusses the settlement, and highlights the key things families should know about wrongful death laws in Iowa. 

Tragedy Takes Life of Two Iowa State University Rowers

In March 2021, a tragic accident at Little Wall Lake, Iowa, claimed the lives of two Iowa State University rowers, Yaakov Ben-David and Derek Nanni. The incident occurred during a practice session of the ISU Crew Club. The two young men, along with other team members, were rowing in challenging weather conditions when their boat capsized. 

The Allegations: ISU Failed to Take Proper Care to Protect Students 

Could the tragic deaths of these two young men have been prevented? The families believe so and they initiated a wrongful death lawsuit against the university. The wrongful death claim was brought based on allegations surrounding ISU’s reported failure to ensure the safety of its Crew Club members. Notably, the two victims (Yaakov Ben-David and Derek Nanni) drowned during their first water-based practice. 

An investigation revealed that the university’s implementation of health and safety policies for its sports clubs was significantly deficient. This deficiency led to inadequate oversight, training, and support, particularly for high-risk clubs like the Crew Club. The reviews conducted highlighted several critical safety failures on the day of the accident, including: 

  1. The absence of a safety boat; 
  2. Unmet weather condition standards for rowing; and
  3. Inadequate emergency preparation, including the lack of proper safety equipment. 

Notably, these findings prompted ISU to suspend the Crew Club activities and undertake a comprehensive review and restructuring of its policies concerning all sports clubs. Weather in particular was a serious issue on the day of the fatal accident in 2021. Winds were too strong for safe operation by the students given the lack of emergency preparation. 

Wrongful Death Settlement Reached

Iowa State University is a public university. As such, the State of Iowa is a party to his case. A major wrongful death settlement was recently reached between the family of Yakov Ben-David and ISU/Iowa. As part of the settlement agreement, the defendants will pay $3.5 million. The settlement—which is still pending final approval in June—does not include admission of wrongdoing by the university or the state. Notably, this wrongful death settlement follows a multi-million that was reached between ISU and the family of the other victim (Derek Nanni) in 2022. 

Understanding the Wrongful Death Laws in Iowa

The loss of a close loved one to an accident that never should have happened is terrible. It is a devastating, heartbreaking tragedy. Nothing could ever truly be enough to set things right. Still, families need justice and the maximum financial support. In Iowa, a wrongful death claim is a civil cause of action that can be brought by survivors against the at-fault party. These are complex claims. Here are four key points that grieving families in Alkeny should understand about the wrongful death laws in Iowa: 

  • Eligibility: Unfortunately, not every person who was close to the deceased victim has the legal right to bring a claim under Iowa’s wrongful death laws. In Iowa, a wrongful death claim can be filed by the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate. This individual acts on behalf of the beneficiaries, who are typically immediate family members such as spouses, children, or parents. If you have any questions about who should file a wrongful death lawsuit, a top-tier Alkeny wrongful death attorney can help. 
  • Liability: Wrongful death claims are fault-based legal cases. To hold another party legally liable for a fatal accident/incident in Iowa, you must prove that a “wrongful act” on the part of that defendant was a contributing factor. Establishing liability in a wrongful death case in Iowa involves proving that the death was caused by the negligent, reckless, or intentional actions of another party. What constitutes negligence is highly case specific. Any fatal accident in Polk County should be thoroughly investigated by an Alkeny wrongful death lawyer.  
  • Deadline: Wrongful death lawsuits are time-sensitive. To bring a case, you must initiate your claim before the statute of limitations runs out. Under Iowa law (Iowa Code § 614.1(1)), there is generally a two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death lawsuits. That statute of limitations starts on the day of the victim’s death. Only very narrow exceptions apply to the statute of limitations. You do not want to miss out on an opportunity to pursue justice. Consult with an Alkeny wrongful death attorney as soon as possible. 
  • Compensation: No amount of financial compensation will ever be enough to set things right after a deadly accident. Still, it is the primary civil remedy for grieving families. It is imperative that your family has the financial support it needs to put the pieces back together. Compensation in wrongful death cases in Iowa can include a variety of damages. Economic damages cover the financial contributions the deceased would have provided, such as future earnings, benefits, and funeral and burial costs. Non-economic damages are also compensable, including pain and suffering endured by the deceased before death and the loss of companionship and emotional support suffered by family members. In some cases, punitive damages may be awarded if the defendant’s actions were egregious.

Contact Our Alkeny Wrongful Death Lawyer for a Confidential Consultation


At Ball, Kirk & Holm, P.C., our Alkeny wrongful death attorneys are compassionate, experienced advocates for clients. If your loved one was killed in an accident caused by negligence, please do not hesitate to contact us today for a free, no obligation case review. Our legal team is ready to travel directly to your family to provide legal representation. We handle wrongful death claims in Alkeny, Polk County, and throughout the surrounding region in Central Iowa.