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Duval County, FL

The plaintiff brought this action against the manufacturer of a ________ Sea Doo Challenger Model 210SP jetboat under strict liability and negligent theories. The plaintiff alleged that the jetboat contained a design defect in the engine hatch cover, and that the defendant failed to warn of the alleged danger. As a result, the plaintiff claimed that the engine hatch cover closed on her foot, and she sustained amputation of three toes. The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s injuries resulted solely from her own negligence and her failure to notice the position of her foot when she closed the engine hatch cover. The defendant also argued the alleged danger was open, obvious, and clearly observable.

The plaintiff had owned the jetboat for ten months prior to the date of the incident and had opened/closed the engine hatch at least 50 times without injury or accident. The plaintiff testified that she was performing maintenance on the jetboat in the engine compartment while the boat was up on a lift in the backyard of her home in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.

The plaintiff opened the engine hatch from the cockpit area, which is the only place a user can open the hatch. She then climbed onto the gunnel, jumped onto the dock, and reboarded on the rear boarding platform of the boat. The plaintiff took several steps on the rear boarding platform, stepped forward, placed her foot in the semi-circular opening underneath the open engine hatch cover – admittedly did not look down – and pushed the engine hatch closed on her foot.

The plaintiff sustained amputation of three of her toes on her right foot and claimed to suffer from neuropathic pain, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, and chronic pain syndrome. The plaintiff’s doctors testified that the plaintiff has been left with an altered gait as well as constant foot, knee, leg, hip, and back pains. The plaintiff also alleged that she suffered from anxiety and depression stemming from the incident.

The plaintiff underwent multiple surgeries for the toe amputations, and also underwent several block injections and two surgeries for permanent implantation of a spinal cord stimulator. She was a 37-year-old stay at home mom at the time of injury.

The plaintiff alleged the engine hatch cover was defectively/negligent designed and contained defective warnings with regards to placing a foot in the semi-circular opening at the base of the engine hatch cover when the hatch was in the open position. The semi-circular opening was present due to a circular ski-pylon at the rear boarding platform. She alleged that the design was dangerous in that the engine hatch cover, if closed, would strike a foot in that location and that the defendant was aware of this danger.

The defendant maintained that the ________ Sea Doo Challenger was reasonably safe and well-designed. The defense argued that the engine hatch cover on the jetboat was not at fault in any way for the plaintiff’s accident. Rather, the defense contended that the injuries resulted from the plaintiff’s misuse, carelessness, failing to look down, and failing to exercise common sense.

The defendant maintained that the jetboat, and its engine hatch cover, functioned exactly as designed and intended. The defense argued that the plaintiff simply positioned her foot in the semi-circular opening underneath the open engine hatch, did not look down, and pushed the engine hatch closed on her own foot.

The defendant also challenged the reasonableness and medical necessity of the plaintiff’s post-accident treatment, including implantation of the spinal cord stimulator. The defense also challenged the plaintiff’s claimed future care needs associated with the spinal cord stimulator treatment, which represented the greater majority of her past and future medical expenses.The jury found for the defendant, who has pending motions for attorney’s fees and costs.

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