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ARTICLE ID 185747

– PRODUCT LIABILITY – DEFECTIVE DESIGN OF PERSONAL WATERCRAFT – LACK OF BRAKES/THROTTLE STEERING DEVICE TO PERMIT STEERING AFTER RELEASE OF THROTTLE – MASSIVE HEAD TRAUMA TO DECEDENT WHEN WATERCRAFT COLLIDES WITH JET BOAT – WRONGFUL DEATH.

San Diego County, CA

In this product liability matter, the plaintiffs alleged that the defendant was liable on strict liability and negligence due to the defective design of its watercraft which prevented it from being steered after throttle was released. The decedent was unable to steer the craft out of the path of an oncoming jet boat, resulting in his death from massive head injuries. The defendant denied the allegations, disputed the design defect claim and maintained that the decedent’s own negligence was the sole cause of his death.

The male decedent was operating a Yamaha personal WaveRunner watercraft. The decedent was leaving the Yuma Wash and turned upriver into the path of a jet boat. When the plaintiff’s decedent realized that a collision was imminent he panicked, released the throttle and attempted to steer the watercraft out of the path of the jet boat. He was unable to do so and the watercraft and jet boat collided. The decedent died immediately as a result of massive head trauma.

The decedent was the head of a multimillion dollar company and had been earning $11 million in the year prior to his death. The plaintiff brought suit against the defendant on theories of strict liability in design, negligent design and general negligence. The plaintiff sought punitive damages. The plaintiff alleged that the watercraft was defective in that it failed to include a brake or a steering mechanism off the throttle which would have allowed the decedent to maneuver the watercraft out of the path of the oncoming boat. The plaintiff proposed an alternate design of a reverse braking bucket and steering device.

The defendant denied the allegations. The defendant contended that the watercraft was top of the line in design and was not lacking any features. The defendant contended that the off-throttle steering was reasonably safe and that boats do not have brakes. The defendant argued that the collision was entirely the fault of the plaintiff’s decedent who failed to look where he was turning and who operated the watercraft at an excessive speed for the conditions.The matter was tried over a period of approximately two months. The jury deliberated for approximately two days and returned their verdict in favor of the defendant and against the plaintiff.

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