Jury Determines That Bombardier Was Not Negligent In Design Of Sea-Doo

11.12.10

Case Involving Personal Watercraft Accident Reinforces
Important Water Safety Message, “Know Before You Go”


MIAMI – November 12, 2010 – After a two week trial in the U.S. District Court Middle District in Fort Myers, Fla, a jury found that the 2006 Sea-Doo RXT was safe and not defective, and that the manufacturer, Bombardier Recreational Products, was not negligent in the design of its product. The lawsuit was filed by a Naples, Fla. woman who was severely injured in a personal watercraft accident in 2007. Bombardier was defended by Scott Sarason, a partner with Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell.

“Statistically speaking, the probability of the type of incident involved in this case is extremely rare. Owners, operators and passengers of personal watercrafts must think safety first,” said Sarason. “It’s important for people to realize that these watercraft are classified as boats. That’s why the watercraft industry has been working diligently with authorities like the Coast Guard to introduce programs like ‘Know Before You Go’ in an effort to prevent accidents and injuries.”

On what would be her first time ever on a personal watercraft, the young woman was riding as a passenger when she suddenly lost her grip and slid backwards off the rear. Even though she did not strike any portion of the vessel, she fell into the jet propulsion flow and received lower body and internal injuries from the powerful blast of water.

The lawsuit claimed that the Bombardier Sea-Doo had a design defect and failed to warn operators and passengers about the dangers of coming into contact with the jet thrust emanating from the nozzle.

“The woman says she did not have any conversation with anyone concerning the use of protective gear, such wet suit bottoms or equivalent protective clothing,” said Sarason. “During the trial, the operator admitted that he saw, but did not read, the onboard warning label. He also admitted that he did not read the safety recommendations in the operator’s guide nor watch the safety video.”

The jury ultimately determined that there was no defect in the personal watercraft. Furthermore, Sarason said the alternative designs the Plaintiff proposed such as a seat back or a passenger safety lanyard that shuts the engine, were not reasonable and exposed all riders to foreseeable risk of harm, therefore, the risks of the alternative designs far outweigh the benefits,” he said.

In 2009, Bombardier was recognized with an award for its commitment to boating safety from the United States Coast Guard Office of Auxiliary and Boating Safety. “Safely riding a personal watercraft is interactive. You can't just sit on it and go. It requires constant attention, constant alertness and constant communication between the operator and the passenger,” adds Sarason.

Bombardier Recreational Products is a world leader in the design, development, manufacturing, distribution and marketing of motorized recreational vehicles. Its portfolio of brands and products includes: Ski-Doo and Lynx snowmobiles, Sea-Doo watercraft and sport boats, Evinrude and Johnson outboard engines, direct injection technologies such as E-TEC, Can-Am all-terrain vehicles and roadsters, Rotax engines and karts.

“In order to safely operate a personal watercraft, you have to read and heed the onboard warnings and  the warnings and instructions in the operator's guide. Like with any type of motorized product, whether it's a car, a motorcycle or an ATV, you have to use common sense.”

With over 26 years of litigation experience, Sarason represents clients in cases involving product liability and admiralty/maritime claims including serving as national counsel for Bombardier Recreational Products. In his product liability practice, Scott represents the manufacturers, distributors and retailers of a variety of products including recreational vehicles such as personal watercraft, jet boats, other marine vessels used as pleasure crafts and ultra light aircraft. Litigating in state and federal court, Sarason’s cases involve the defense of claims involving significant and catastrophic injury as well as wrongful death. He received his law degree from the University of Miami School of Law in 1983 and his undergraduate degree from George Washington University.

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 Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell provides litigation and counseling services in a wide range of civil practice areas including products liability, commercial litigation, intellectual property, environmental, employment, insurance, professional liability, health care and administrative law. Offices are located in Orlando, Tampa, Miami, Tallahassee and Birmingham, Alabama.

 
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