As the administrator of my late husband's estate, I am announcing that the estate and Royal Caribbean have reached an out-of-court settlement and that I am submitting the settlement agreement today to the Honorable David W. Hopper, of the Greenwich, Connecticut Probate Court for his approval. I shared the substance of this settlement agreement with the Smith family this past June, and I am sharing this statement with the public so that my decision-making process may be understood.
The most important element of this proposed agreement is the ability to acquire additional information about George's death. Also, the proposed agreement will enable us to set up a charitable fund which will honor George's life and memory. I am proud that we were able to obtain these two crucial pieces in the proposed agreement, and I believe that my late husband, George Smith, would also be proud that his memory will be honored and that something positive can come out of our families' tragedy. I believe this is a fair and equitable agreement and the best solution for all parties
Specifically, the settlement provides resources in five areas:
· Additional information from Royal Caribbean will be made available to Dr. Henry Lee and my maritime attorney, James Walker. This will include relevant vessel logs, security reports, door-activity (lock-link) records, photographs, security tapes, correspondence to and from the FBI and other law-enforcement authorities, as well as witness statements from guests and crewmembers which would never have otherwise been obtained, even in the event of a lawsuit. Royal Caribbean will also provide answers to questions we have regarding their investigation;
· $950,000 will be paid to George's estate by Royal Caribbean. This sum shall be distributed to the estate, rather than be paid to me directly as is typical under federal maritime law. This will enable the Smith family to share in those proceeds to the fullest extent under Connecticut law;
· In addition, $100,000 will be paid by Royal Caribbean toward investigation costs incurred by my maritime attorney;
· The estate will then pay $60,000 to noted forensic expert Dr. Henry Lee to continue his investigation of George's death; and
· $50,000 will be paid to create a charitable fund in memory of George. Half of this amount will come directly from me and half will come from Royal Caribbean.
Since the day I lost George so tragically, I have done everything within my power and have taken all of the appropriate steps to press the authorities in their investigation to determine the circumstances surrounding George's disappearance:
· I have had extensive discussions with the FBI to aid in their investigation, and I will continue to do so indefinitely. I followed their requests not to discuss the case so as to maintain the integrity of the case and its facts;
· I have hired Dr. Henry Lee, perhaps the finest forensics expert in the world, to assist in the investigation. Dr. Lee boarded the cruise ship with six other investigators and obtained important forensic evidence which he turned over to the FBI. Dr. Lee remains dedicated to continuing his investigation;
· I have created a website and tip line to obtain leads about George's disappearance. We have been able to forward important information from these sources to the FBI from the general public;
· I have worked as an advocate to help improve cruise line safety and security regulations;
· I have hired an experienced maritime attorney, who specializes in cruise line personal injury matters, to assess and investigate potential claims and recommend a course of action; and
· I have had numerous discussions with Royal Caribbean to assess their actions and conduct regarding George's disappearance.
My single goal continues to be to find the answers regarding how George died. Reaching a settlement in this case in no way shuts down the investigation. Rather, the settlement allows Dr. Henry Lee and his team of experts to obtain pertinent information gathered by Royal Caribbean in its investigation so that we can further our quest for answers. We are also reliant on the ongoing efforts of the FBI for which my family and I are grateful. I continue to assist the FBI and appreciate their acknowledgment of my full cooperation and their referral of a victims' grievance counselor to help me heal.
All of these efforts have educated and assisted me in my deliberations regarding any legal action against, or settlement with, Royal Caribbean. I have had to consider many factors before reaching this agreement, including the complexity of maritime law and its monetary limits, the known evidence and facts, and the timeliness of legal discovery. Obtaining information through litigation is an inefficient and often incomplete process. With every passing day, my greatest fear is that the investigation will grow stale. A law suit against Royal Caribbean would only delay the acquisition of new, timely information.
After considering these factors, I have concluded it is in the best interest of George's estate to reach a settlement with Royal Caribbean. This proposed settlement provides the certainty of obtaining additional meaningful information surrounding George's death in a timely manner, which is very important to me.
A person's memory can be honored by doing the right thing, and it has always been my goal to honor George's memory. It is this goal that helps me heal. It is this goal that helps me move forward. And, it is this goal that gives me hope and confidence in the end result of this settlement.
I hope it will be recognized that my loyalty to George and his memory can never be measured in media appearances, allegations, lawsuits, or dollars and cents.