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story.lead_photo.caption FILE- In this July 23, 2018, file photo, the duck boat that sank on July 19 in Table Rock Lake in Branson, Mo., is raised. (Nathan Papes/The Springfield News-Leader via AP, File)

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge has ruled that an 1851 maritime law does not protect a company from making payments to families of people aboard a tourist boat that sank on a Missouri lake, killing 17 people.

After the July 2018 sinking at Table Rock Lake near Branson, multiple lawsuits were filed against Ride the Ducks International, which owned the boat before Ripley Entertainment bought it.

The two companies asked U.S. District Judge Doug Harpool last year to find the 1851 Shipowners Limitation of Liability Act meant damages due to survivors or relatives of those who drowned could be capped at no more than the value of the sunken boat, which is zero dollars.

The Springfield News-Leader reports that Harpool ruled Friday the law doesn't apply, in part because Table Rock Lake is not considered a "navigable waterway" under federal law.

A spokeswoman for Ripley Entertainment on Tuesday declined to comment on the ruling.

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