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$________ GROSS Admiralty – Negligent boat operation – Boat strikes wake – Plaintiff thrown overboard – Cervical and lumbar disc injuries claimed – Bilateral labrum tears – 90% comparative negligence found.

Palm Beach County, FL

The plaintiff alleged that the defendant negligently operated a motor boat so as to strike a wake and cause the plaintiff to be thrown overboard. The defendant argued that the plaintiff was an experienced boater who negligently allowed the defendant to operate the boat without proper instruction or experience.

The plaintiff was a 45-year-old man who borrowed a 26 foot Velocity speed boat from a friend in ________, invited the defendant onto the boat and then allowed the defendant to operate it. The plaintiff claimed that, while operating the boat in the Intracoastal Waterway northbound, just north of the Southern Boulevard Bridge in West Palm Beach, the defendant negligently struck a wake.

The plaintiff claimed that he was thrown overboard by the impact of the wake. The plaintiff’s maritime expert testified that, among other things, the defendant was traveling at an excessive speed, struck the wake at the wrong angle and failed to keep a proper lookout.

The plaintiff was diagnosed with a herniated cervical disc, lumbar disc protrusion and bilateral labrum tears which he claimed resulted from the incident. The plaintiff’s doctors recommended cervical surgery as well as bilateral shoulder surgery. The plaintiff sought past and future damages for medical expenses, loss of wages and pain and suffering.

The defendant argued that the plaintiff was aware that the defendant was inexperienced at boat operation when he allowed her to drive the vessel. The defendant claimed that she was relying on the plaintiff, a former first mate with extensive boating experience, to guide her while she was at the helm. The defendant testified that the plaintiff was instructing her and operating the trim tabs as they traversed the Intracoastal Waterway. The defense contended that the plaintiff failed to properly instruct the defendant in negotiating the wake.

The defendant’s orthopedic surgeon opined that the plaintiff’s cervical, lumbar and shoulder conditions were not related to the incident in question. The defendant’s expert contended that the plaintiff suffered from preexisting conditions associated with obesity and the normal aging process.The jury found the defendant 10% negligent and the plaintiff 90% comparatively negligent. The plaintiff was awarded $________ in past medical expenses. The damages were reduced to a net award of $________. The plaintiff’s motion for new trial is currently pending.

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