BRP avoids liability in Sea-Doo lawsuit

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Bombardier Recreational Products was found not to be liable for injuries that a Naples, Fla., woman sustained in 2007 when she fell off the back of a Sea-Doo.

A federal jury last week originally awarded Christina Thomas, 21, $1.75 million, but U.S. District Judge John Steele reviewed the verdict sheet before it was announced and rejected it, the Marco Eagle newspaper reported.

Jurors had not correctly followed instructions. They found the driver and owner equally negligent and ordered them to pay Thomas, but BRP was the defendant in the case.

The jury found that BRP, which manufactured the 2006 Sea-Doo RXT, had not negligently designed the Sea-Doo and that it was not in a defective condition.

Thomas slipped off the back of the Sea-Doo on May 20, 2007, when water from its jet thrust shot inside her, causing excruciating pain and internal injuries and bloodying the Gulf of Mexico, she told the court.

Thomas, now a student at Florida Gulf Coast University, was rushed to a hospital, where she spent about two weeks recovering from the Memorial Day weekend accident. She wore a colostomy bag for several months. An operation reversed that, but the former cheerleader still has medical problems and can only give birth through a C-section, the newspaper reported.

Thomas’ lawyer, Robert Selig of Fort Lauderdale, is filing post-trial motions and is considering an appeal involving a pretrial ruling that barred him from mentioning 17 other women who were seriously injured in similar cases involving Bombardier, Kawasaki, Polaris and other manufacturers, including two that Bombardier settled.

Thomas’ lawsuit hinged on a warning label placed beneath the handlebars at the front of the two-seat Sea-Doo. Selig and his expert contended that it was not conspicuous enough, but Bombardier’s lawyer argued that it was.

Bombardier’s lawyer had argued that Thomas, Sea-Doo driver James Del Sordo, now 25, and owner George Smith, the father of a classmate, were negligent because they did not read or heed the warning label.

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5 comments on “BRP avoids liability in Sea-Doo lawsuit

  1. Ohmboy

    Reading the filing papers and outcome, three points become apparant (from this suit and others that were recently filed):
    1.  All boats should have warnings on the rear swim platform about potential swimmer injury from propeller or lower unit/skeg impacts. A warning in a conspicuos spot saved BRP in this suit.
    2.  All boat advertising should not show boats under way with people in bow seats ( Crownline bow rider accident in Jacksonville).
    3. You have to warn the driver/operator of potential hazards AND the passengers in conspicuos locations with permanent stickers.
    Although you cannot design around people being stupid, you can limit your liability with appropriatte and judiscious use of warning decals.

  2. Bilgescraper

    As a marine journalist, working in Europe, I read cases such as these with some forboding. Unfortunately accident litigation is becoming a fact of life here as well. However this does not detract from the simple fact that a PWC [Jet-Ski] is on par with,say, a motor cycle, quad, snowmobile, or even a small sports boat;all of which are designed to provide a high thrill factor. Common sense dictates that the risk factor from all these “toys” is higher than that of more mundane persuits. Any novice should be fully aware [or be made aware] that using such a machine without training, or the correct protective clothing, is an unacceptable risk – surely an accident [and possible litigation] waiting to happen.
    In Europe few riders of PWC would venture out, or indeed wish to be seen, without the latest [very trendy and stylish] floatation jackets, and in some cases, protective headgear. In addition most would also be wearing “shortie” neoprene wet suits [ecause it’s seldom hot here] which would certainly have dramatically reduced the personal injuries in this particular case, and those of similar nature.
    We are rapidly getting to the stage where people are geting paranoid about taking risks, or letting their offspring take risks, which has always been a part of growing up. Blaming someone else for your own stupidity, or ignorance, is simply a cop out – don’t you think?

  3. Industry Worker

    Maybe we should just place a warning label on everyones arms when they are born:
    WARNING: Living life could be hazardous to your health!
    Good grief I feel very sorry for the young lady that was injured, but don’t you think riding on the back of something with no gear at a high rate of speed may put you at some king of risk?????????????????????????
    Another great historic lawsuit brought to you by the firm of Shaft, Shaft and Reamer.

  4. efizjb

    Thankfully someone saw thru this, if a warning label at the controls/helm/steering/handlebars, is not conspicuous enough what is?
    Here should be a sticker for anything that can be operated “If you intend to sue for lack of common sense rather than negligence, DO NOT OPERATE”

  5. wezie

    The wearing of wet suits, or even any clothing, i.e. not a string swim suit, would most likely have helped in this situation. Sounds like a skimpily clad female. Buyers, continually taking the higher horsepower option are part of this equation.
    As long as money can be attained by suing, a non-productive class consisting of lawyers and sewers will abound and get rich not at others expense, but at OUR expense!

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