Civil claims arising out of defective equipment or vessels generally fall into one of three categories:
- Product liability claims for injury to persons arising out of a dangerous or defective vessel or piece of equipment
- Contractual or implied warranty claims against manufacturer and/or seller of vessel or equipment deemed defective
- Insurance claims for proceeds under the marine insurance policy
At Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, our boating injury attorneys focus on recovering compensation for those injured by defective equipment and boats as provided through theories of negligence, strict liability or warranty.
Our Fort Myers personal injury attorneys have handled cases for many clients injured as a result of defective vessels or equipment. These issues are problematic not solely because they are hefty expenses for boat owners, but because they heighten the risk of capsizing, flooding, collision, fire and carbon monoxide leaks – all of which can result in serious injury or death to passengers or others who share the waterway.
Some of the more common dangers stem from problems or defects with:
- Electrical systems
- Battery chargers
- Engine components
- Fuel system line leaks
- Fuel pump cracks
- Dive gear
- Navigational equipment
- Pilot ladders
- Ship lift equipment
- Ship conveyer belt
- Ship loading equipment
- Steering arms
While many boating accidents in Florida are attributable to operator failures, machinery failure is often cited by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission as a common contributing cause in accidents. It is listed by the agency as the fifth most common problem in boating accidents, found as the primary cause of accidents in 60 of the state’s 736 boating accidents in 2013. Another 22 incidents indicated hull failure, 21 involved equipment failure and 12 more involved ignition of fuel vapor.
Just like any other defective product, there is a system for recall when marine products or boating equipment is identified as defective, either by the manufacturer or government regulators. The process is overseen by the U.S. Coast Guard.
Some of the recalls reported just in 2014 included:
- IM Shift Cable Separation in 2010 models manufactured by Mercury Marine where the crimp process used to secure the shift cable to the inner core wire might not adequately retain the core wire, which may cause shift control to be lost.
- Fuel system defects in the 2011 models produced by Mastercraft, where placement of the fuel tank and/or engine in manufacturing may result in the tank coming in contact or rubbing against the transmission shaft coupler, which could eventually lead to a fuel tank rupture.
- Battery/electrical failures in the 2008-2010 models produced by Torqeedo in outboard motors resulted in fires. This battery style has been discontinued and replaced.
- Exhaust system defects in generator sets manufactured by Kohler Power Systems between 2008 and 2013 may result in failure to shut down the unit quickly enough in certain emergency circumstances.
These are just a few examples. The list is extensive, and dates back to the early 1980s. Because boats tend to be maintained and used longer than motor vehicles, there is a strong chance many of these older models may still be in use in and around Florida.
While boat owners and operators have a responsibility to conduct a systems check prior to taking the boat out on the water, this does not excuse the manufacturer from liability for dangerous outcomes caused by equipment that is defective or dangerous when used as intended.Defective Boating Equipment Ends in Tragedy
For an example of how defective vessels and equipment can have deadly results, look no further than South Florida in 2005. In Palm Beach County, two young girls, ages 14 and 15, set out on a WaveRunner, and just minutes later collided with a go-fast boat. The horrific accident left the 15-year-old with lifelong injuries. The 14-year-old was killed.
In court, families for the two girls argued the manufacturer of the WaveRunner, Yamaha, ignored years of warnings about flaws within the steering system. Plaintiff attorneys claimed reckless indifference to human life resulted in a vessel defect that prevented the 14-year-old operator from being able to effectively steer away from the oncoming boat.
A jury agreed, awarding the families $35 million in damages in Perez v. Yamaha Motor Corp., with defendant Yamaha found to be responsible for 88 percent of fault.
Those injured by defective vessels or maritime equipment should contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Southwest Florida.
Contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.