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first successful case against the boating industry by a person injured by a motor

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Jurors find boat manufacturer partly liable

Company ordered to pay $3.8 million in damages, medical expenses.

By Tony Plohetski

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Updated: 10:58 p.m. Monday, April 5, 2010

Published: 10:36 p.m. Monday, April 5, 2010

A federal jury Monday found a boat manufacturer partially liable for a 2005 incident on Lake Austin in which a teen's leg was severed by a propeller. Jurors ordered the company to pay $3.8 million in medical expenses and damages.

After deliberating for about seven hours, jurors found that the Brunswick Corp. shared more than half of the blame for the accident that severely injured Jacob Brochtrup, who was then 18.

Brunswick officials said in a statement after the verdict that they "stand behind our products, which are used safely and properly by boaters around the world."

Jurors found that Brochtrup also was responsible, as was the driver of the boat.

"I think they made a well thought-out, informed decision, and I think it was the right decision," said Brochtrup, now 22. "Based on the evidence that was presented, I think the case was proven pretty well."

Brochtrup sued Sea Ray Boats Inc. and Mercury Marine — Brunswick is their parent company — in 2007, saying they were liable for his injury.

He had been celebrating the July Fourth weekend wakeboarding with three friends at Emma Long Metropolitan Park when the accident happened. Brochtrup had just finished his turn on the wakeboard when a tow rope popped off the back of the white Sea Ray ski boat.

Brochtrup jumped out of the boat to grab the line. Unaware that Brochtrup was in the water behind him, 18-year-old driver Patrick Houston put his family's boat in reverse.

The propeller caught the top of Brochtrup's right leg and twisted it around, chopping deep into flesh, muscle and bone.

The suit said that the wound to Brochtrup's leg was so large that he had lost most of his blood and that it caused his heart to stop. He had been in cardiac arrest for at least 45 minutes, and a STAR Flight helicopter delivered him to the emergency room clinically dead.

Some doctors called him a "one-in-a-million survivor."

According to the suit, the manufacturer of the boat and motor did not have safety devices, including guards or covers, to prevent Brochtrup from becoming entangled or stuck.

"While we at Brunswick remain sympathetic to the plaintiff for this unfortunate accident, we are nevertheless disappointed with today's verdict," Brunswick officials said in the statement Monday. "We will evaluate our options in this matter going forward, including a possible appeal."

Austin attorney Robby Alden, who represented Brochtrup, said the decision marks the first successful case against the boating industry by a person injured by a motor. A U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2002 allowed such cases to go forward.

Boat makers prevailed in two similar suits nationally that involved older-model boats, he said. And jurors in two previous trials of Brochtrup's case deadlocked, resulting in mistrials.

During the latest trial, which began last week, Alden said he sought to show jurors that manufacturers could make boats and motors safer by installing guards on propellers and placing a shield over the back. The concept for a device was created years ago, he said, but the industry has resisted adopting it.

Before the verdict, Brunswick attorney Woody Norwood of New Orleans would only say: "We are very sorry about his injury. It was a very unfortunate accident."

According to Monday's decision, Brunswick was 66 percent responsible for the accident, and Brochtrup and the boat's driver each were 17 percent liable. The driver wasn't part of the suit and will pay no damages.

Most of the damages were for Brochtrup's past and future medical expenses. However, he also received $100,000 for his disfigurement and $264,000 for physical pain.

"I think the amounts for the award were fair," Alden said. "I'm happy about it. Hopefully, they will start making a change to protect people."

Brochtrup attended the trial and was in court for the verdict. Since his accident, he said, he has learned to live with one leg, but he hopes to receive a prosthesis soon. In recent months, he has been studying to become an audio engineer, and he plans to work in the recording industry.

"It's not what I would have wanted, but I'm just trying to enjoy life," he said.

tplohetski@statesman.com; 445-3605

Find this article at:

http://www.statesman.com/news/local/jurors-find-boat-manufacturer-partly-liable-527456.html

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I bet there is an appeal and it will be tied up in the courts for many years to come.

Feel sorry for the kid lossing his leg.

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No doubt there will be an appeal.

Do boat manufacturers have a duty to protect someone from injury due to the neglegence and inattentiveness of the driver of the boat? Isn't there an assumed risk issue here?

This prop guard issue has been around for a while.....

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I bet there is an appeal and it will be tied up in the courts for many years to come.

Feel sorry for the kid lossing his leg.

I feel sorry for the kid too... but that the boat manufacturer was held partialy liable is just unbelievable....(how is it their fault....what prop-guards ??? ...never heard of them.....) :blink:

.....onus should fall directly on the shoulders of the driver of the boat and the owner of the boat....IMHO....

just my :Twocents:

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Duh, it's the drivers fault, plain and simple! The driver drove over someone in the water and they say the Boat MFG is 66% liable. WOW! As if boats aren't expensive enough, if this continue's Boats will become so expensive, we'll all be rowing canoes.

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Crazy! This is a terrific example of how stupid things are getting. Complete negligence on the part of the boat operator as well as the kid that jumped in the water (feel sorry for his physical injury - can't fix his stupidity though). Brunswick/Sea Ray/Mercury are NOT responsible for this. Makes me think of the lawsuits against McDonald's for hot coffee, suits against ladder manufacturers for people falling off, etc.

DUH!!!!

:thththsoapbox2-1:

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Crazy! This is a terrific example of how stupid things are getting. Complete negligence on the part of the boat operator as well as the kid that jumped in the water (feel sorry for his physical injury - can't fix his stupidity though). Brunswick/Sea Ray/Mercury are NOT responsible for this. Makes me think of the lawsuits against McDonald's for hot coffee, suits against ladder manufacturers for people falling off, etc.

DUH!!!!

:thththsoapbox2-1:

All good reason that there needs to be tart reform in the states.

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This is an example of something very wrong with this coutry. There is no way the manufacturer should be held responsible for this. Actions like this could very well raise our insurance premimums, cause manufactures to install stupid proof devices that effect efficiency and increase the cost of the product.

Studid is as stupid does!

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All good reason that there needs to be tart reform in the states.

+1

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Hypothetically speaking...

The next time I throw the truck into reverse while backing out of the drive way, let's just say I clip a kid riding on his bike who just came screaming out of the alley next door. The kid who I hit should be able to bring a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company because my vehicle didn't have a "guard" across the back of the truck to prevent injury. We all know that wouldn't happen and my arse would be in a sling.

Like said before, you can't fix stupid!

What a shame for the boating industry. IMO, they totally got it wrong! Sorry for the kid, though.

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Hypothetically speaking...

The next time I throw the truck into reverse while backing out of the drive way, let's just say I clip a kid riding on his bike who just came screaming out of the alley next door. The kid who I hit should be able to bring a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company because my vehicle didn't have a "guard" across the back of the truck to prevent injury. We all know that wouldn't happen and my arse would be in a sling.

Like said before, you can't fix stupid!

What a shame for the boating industry. IMO, they totally got it wrong! Sorry for the kid, though.

Ford should install backup cameras in all it's vehicles that connect to the computer and when something is behind you it stops the car. They could do it and then you wouldn't be reponsible when you hit the kid. Sometimes there are cases that the manufacture is at fault, like not putting all the nuts on the bolts. Things like falling off a ladder, give me a break!

:thththsoapbox2-1:

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Ford should install backup cameras in all it's vehicles that connect to the computer and when something is behind you it stops the car. They could do it and then you wouldn't be reponsible when you hit the kid. Sometimes there are cases that the manufacture is at fault, like not putting all the nuts on the bolts. Things like falling off a ladder, give me a break!

:thththsoapbox2-1:

"They could do it and then you wouldn't be reponsible when you hit the kid"

Why not. The government already forces the auto industy to adopt all sorts of standards the consumer hasn't asked for. Wait until the most recent CAFE standards take full effect. Hopefully we'll be able to buy a tow vehicle. #$^%, hopefully we'll be able to own power boats at all.

If there's anything the legislators can't screw up, rest assured the lawyers (armed with a little help from the ever available pool of ignorant jurors) will.

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"not my fault" BS..........

I dont have any doe(driver & swimmer) so let sue the people that have some.....

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This happened years ago in the aviation industry. Cessna and others built small airplanes and people crashed them. Small airplane manufacturers were held partially (mostly) liable. That's why nowadays private pilots are still flying 70's planes with engines that have been rebuilt 3,4,5, times over. The result was simple. No more companys making new planes. Imagine, as a result of this (tragic) accident Sea ray, Chaparral, etc., couldn't afford to stay in business because of liability issues deemed legal in the courtroom. All of us here would be shopping for used, 10 year old, rebuilt and reconditioned boats. #%^$&%$ lawyers .

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It's all about going after the one with the most money.

They guy who was running the boat most likely didn't have 2 dimes to his name....but Brunswick, now there is where the money is.......

Just goes to show that a jury of your peers doesn't always get it right......

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+2 on all of the above, wonder teens...boat...drinking??? seems i will be keeping my boat for awhile with 3'' prop....great

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I know we have some lawyers on the forum, but we need tart reform in the US. The fact that some body can hurt themselves and then sue the company that made the product that they used in the wrong way is just wrong. It is effecting alot of industries, but none as bad as the medicial. A large part of the reason that it costs so much in this coutry for healt care is the fact that the people associated with healt care have to pay so much for insurance to cover people that sue them. :thththsoapbox2-1:

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I can see it now.....2 more yellow caution stickers on the back of every new boat. :scratchchin:

And new funky shrouds on the drive housings that rob 20% of the drive's efficiency. :angry:

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I think you are all wrong and don't understand what boat manufactures need to do to protect the public! Why wasn't there a backup beeper, a rear view camera, a complete prop cage, an ultrasonic sensor to stop the boat when something came close to the prop??? Actually, I think we should be going with rubber props too! In fact, why doesn't the boat just know what we do and don't mean to do and just act accordingly? We should WE have to be responsible for our own actions!

It is up to well meaning, selfless people to bring important and relevant lawsuits to protect us all!

WHEN IS THIS NEGLIGENCE FROM THE BOAT MANUFACTURERS GOING TO STOP?????!!!!!!!!!!!!

Come on people. Wake up and smell the seawater (unless you are on a lake or river or bathtub of course)!!!!! :slap:

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This is the problem with our county, is always someone else fault. This is why insurance are too high, health care is so expensive and so on. But you know what, this start at early age on this country, in schools we give chance after chance to the kids to pass, and even after all that, "is not their fault" is the teachers. Then we keep making excuses for everything we do or not do, then our court system allows for frivolous law suits. Look at our government, car manufactures mess up and we go ahead and bail them out, banks mess up and we bail them out. Even other governments mess up and we go and bail them out.

And now I get off my soap opera. :thththsoapbox2-1:

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Absolutely absurd!!!!! Really pi$$es me off!! If I was that kid, it wouldn't even occur to me to sue anyone.

One of my boat rules is to try to avoid standing in the boat when at speed. Another is not to jump out while the engine's running. I had a teen guest do that once. He jumped over the side while at idle speed. I just about ripped his head off (from anger, not with the prop).

Kids do stupid $hit, where were the adults? And yeah, an 18 year old in a boat is a kid! Fourth of July is a terrible time to go to the lake, IMVHO. I just can't surround myself with that many irresponsible people. There's all too many idjits that only take out their boats a couple of times per year. I try to stay away from them on those major holidays. [Your area may vary].

Darwin would be having a fit!!

:thththsoapbox2-1: Okay, climbing down now.

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I'm a little slow, so help me out here...a DF jumps off the back of of boat to 'rescue' a line (that floats and is tied to the boat),gets cut by the prop and the people who make the boat are responsible. Next time he should try to stop the blade with his head, probably a little less damage, and blood .. :notworthy:

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This seems like another case where the jury felt sorry for the injured party, and thinks the big corporation can afford to pay… The legal system should not allow this to happen!

When are people going to start taking responsibility, for their own stupidity!

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This one is hard to believe. No one ever takes responsibility for themselves anymore. They think...“I don’t need to save money… if I go broke… the government will feed me, give me shelter, give me healthcare, and whatever else I need.” It’s sad actually. When you take away all incentive to work hard… guess what? ... no one works hard!

It’s the guys fault for jumping off the #%^$&%$ boat. Heck… I don’t even blame the driver. If I’m dumb enough to jump BEHIND (where the prop is) a running boat… then how can I be shocked that I get my leg chopped up??? I mean… it not like the guy did not know that there is a prop back there.

Whatever… The more I type the more pissed I get….so I’ll just stop now.

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