Atlantic City police said Rando was sitting on a metal and wood bench about 1 p.m. when the vehicle roared up the ramp and knocked him through a comfort station's four-inch-thick masonry wall. The van ended up inside the station at the top of the access ramp where Chelsea Avenue deadends at the Boardwalk.
Cowan and his wife, Barbara, 71, were treated at Atlantic City Medical Center after the accident, officials said.
The ramp was closed to private traffic, police said, and they concluded that Irwin Cowan had lost control of the vehicle.
The lawsuit seeks at least $100,000 in damages from Cowan on behalf of Phyllis Rando and her two children, Anthony and Christine.
The Rando family is represented in the lawsuit by Lawrence R. Cohan and Thomas R. Anapol of the Anapol, Schwartz, Weiss & Cohan law firm of Cherry Hill. The lawsuit was filed in federal rather than state court because the death occurred in New Jersey, and Irwin Cowan lives out of state, on 67th Avenue in Fresh Meadows, N.Y.
The document charges that Cowan was speeding, did not have the minivan under control and failed to brake in time, allow for existing traffic conditions, or watch for pedestrians.
The Rando family is asking to be reimbursed for the cost of emergency care given to Anthony Rando at the accident scene and for the expenses of his funeral.
The van had hand-operated brake and acceleration controls, police said, which may have contributed to the crash. The van apparently did not slow down even as it struck Rando, according to police.
Boardwalk workers and nearby beachgoers told police the van appeared to be speeding up the wooden ramp. Several witnesses said they heard a roar and then a crash, and some said they saw masonry flying.
Medical examiners pronounced Rando dead at the scene.
Police said the Cowans had just come to Atlantic City and had checked into the Howard Johnson's motel on Pacific Avenue about a block from the crash site.