Two Fishers residents severely injured in a south Florida powerboat crash late last year are suing the CEO of Indianapolis-based insurance holding company Group1001 for allegedly driving the 425-horsepower boat recklessly after drinking, although he has not been criminally charged.
Jarrett and Lauren Silagyi, who were married in 2016, filed the lawsuit on Tuesday in Broward County (Florida) Circuit Court against Daniel Towriss, 48, of Zionsville. They are seeking compensation for medical costs, lost wages and other damages that an attorney says could top $100 million.
The injuries stem from a crash in the early morning of Dec. 31 near Fort Lauderdale that caused Jarrett and Lauren Silagyi to be thrown from the vessel — a 42-foot Hydra Sport custom fishing boat — onto nearby rocks. The couple’s complaint alleges Towriss was intoxicated and driving the boat recklessly when he ran it into a fishing jetty at Port Everglades at a high speed.
“This kind of conduct, boating under the influence, at night, near a busy port, in a high-powered million-dollar recreational boat is careless and reckless,” said Jack Hickey, an attorney with the Miami-based Hickey Law Firm, in a statement. The firm is representing the Silagyis in the lawsuit.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigated the crash, but at this point, Towriss has not been charged.
His criminal defense attorney, Fort Lauderdale-based Eric Schwartzreich, told IBJ that the crash was not alcohol-related and he does not expect charges that “rise to the level of a felony.” And he said any charges that are brought against Towriss “are fully defensible.”
“Mr. Towriss was not intoxicated,” Schwartzreich said. “What happened here was an accident— nothing more, nothing less.
“The jetty where the accident occurred is not well lit and there have been boating accidents there before,” he said. “It’s a recipe for a boat accident to happen — and putting the blame on my client, that is going to be a difficult hurdle.”
Calls to several phone numbers listed under Towriss’ name were not returned by IBJ’s deadline.
According to the complaint, Towriss invited the Silagyis to join him on the boat to celebrate Lauren’s 33rd birthday. The suit alleges he drank one mixed drink and a portion of up to three bottles of wine before boarding the boat, which he had recently acquired and had been docked at a home he owns in Fort Lauderdale. The suit said Towriss then drank another cocktail while driving the boat, which was outfitted with four outboard Yamaha engines. The suit said Cassidy Rudman, 26, of Indianapolis, who is described as Towriss’ “significant other,” was also a passenger.
The group boated on the open ocean for about 90 minutes. Then Towriss tried to make his way back to the Intracoastal Waterway through an inlet but struggled to find his way and was driving unsafely when the boat collided with the jetty, ejecting the Silagyis, the suit said.
Lauren Silagyi suffered a fractured skull and a traumatic brain injury, brain bleeding, a broken nose, permanent facial scarring, disfigurement and injuries to her right leg and ribs, according to the suit. Jarret Silagyi, 40, experienced head trauma, cuts on his lip and a broken nose.
“These injuries are very, very, very significant. I would venture to say these are hundred-million dollar-type injuries, if you put them together,” Hickey told IBJ. “The whole thing is bad. It’s beyond careless.”
The suit does not list a specific amount of money the couple is seeking from Towriss.
Towriss and Rudman suffered only minor injuries in the crash.
The lawsuit includes allegations that Towriss violated 12 Florida laws, including operating a vessel at an excessive speed, operating a vessel while under the influence of alcohol and operating the vessel in a reckless and careless fashion.
But Schwartzreich, his attorney, said Towriss is not culpable.
“We categorically deny that this was an alcohol-related accident,” he said. “There is no meat on the bone there.”
Group1001, a privately owned insurance holding company previously known as Delaware Life Holdings, has more than 200 employees at its Indianapolis headquarters and another 250 in additional offices in Zionsville, Chicago, New York and Waltham, Massachusetts. It had $37 billion in assets when it rebranded as Group1001 in 2017, with approximately 340,000 policyholders.
Recently, the company announced its purchase of and plans to occupy the former Lids Sports Group headquarters in Zionsville.
One of its Group1001’s divisions is Gainbridge, which is the presenting sponsor of the Indianapolis 500.
Towriss bought the waterfront home with a “dock big enough for a 100-foot yacht” in Fort Lauderdale for $10.4 million in 2016, according to the South Florida Business Journal.
The Silagyis own Portside Marine and Lakeview Marina in Hamilton County.