Closing arguments set in MasterCraft design lawsuit

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A California jury will soon decide whether MasterCraft was negligent for its boat design in a case involving a 2006 accident that left two people injured.

On July 9, 2006, Jerry Montz was driving a 24-foot X-45 MasterCraft wakeboarding boat on Lake Oroville with 18 other people aboard. When the boat made a turn after the wakeboarder fell, Niki Bell and Bethany Mercer, formerly Wallenburg, were washed overboard from the bow and hit by the boat’s propeller, according to a report in the Enterprise-Record newspaper.

Mercer suffered injuries to her arm, leg and back. Bell had multiple skull fractures and damage to the frontal lobe of her brain, and she lost her left eye.

In 2006 Montz was sentenced to three years probation after he pleaded no contest to reckless or negligent operation of a vessel. Bell’s father and Mercer filed suit against MasterCraft and Montz, seeking damages. Mercer had about $60,000 in medical bills and Bell’s exceed $2 million.

“If Jerry Montz knew then what he knows now, this accident would not have happened,” Montz’s lawyer Jerry Duncan said.

Duncan thinks MasterCraft should have properly tested the boat before releasing it to consumers without proper warnings or a functional design. Montz bought the boat because it was big and cool-looking, Duncan said.

The trial resumes today with closing arguments.

Click here for the full article.


17 comments on “Closing arguments set in MasterCraft design lawsuit

  1. Concerned in the Industry

    While the owner/operator of the boat has some responsibility in this because he allowed this many people on his boat, why in the world would these girls think that someone else is responsible for their ignorant decision to get on a boat with 19 people, when that boat is not Coast Guard approved to hold that many people?? It is sad that people cannot take responsibility for their own poor decision-making. The fact that this even went to court against MasterCraft is ridiculous.

  2. JMAitken

    Again, when will people take responsibly for their actions? If the operator (Montz) would Captained the boat properly this tragedy could have been avoided.

  3. enginecom

    After the recent report on the suit against the IO manufacturer this one will probably go toward the plaintiffs. The arguments will probably also include a guard on the prop. We all know what that does to a planing boat. Its not that the boat was overloaded but the load was not properly distributed. The inherent g-forces involved make being in that boat during abrupt maneuvers difficult at best without restraints. Next they courts will order both prop guards and seat belts.

  4. bertb

    WOW!!! 2 obsurd cases of these in 2 days and 3 in the past 2 months!!! Again, we cannot prevent ignorance and stupidity!

  5. rem1473

    Capacity plates are only required for boats up to 20′ I think? The boat may have had a plate anyways. If not, I’ll bet Mastercraft installs them from now on! 18 people sounds like an awful lot of people in a 24′ boat. Keep in mind that they were over 18 people. The article said 18 “other” people. So the driver makes 19 and the wake boarder makes 20. In Ohio they would have been cited for illegal operation. Did all 20 people have a PFD? Whether the boat was overloaded or not… So if I load up 18 friends in the back of my pickup truck and go cruising across a field and the driver makes a sharp turn that causes someone to fall out and get run over by the truck, that is Ford Motor Company’s fault for bad design? Are we going to require seat belts in boats? I get sick and tired of these lawsuits. Blame the company. They are faceless and must have lots of money. Never mind the fact that you may put the company out of business and/or cost hard working American’s their livelihood.

  6. Gordon Schwarzer

    No matter what the approved capacity of the vessel is, in this case 18 people. If not properly distributed you will have a problem. Captain’s responsibility. The weight being forward in a section of the hull with less
    displacement when executing a hard turn the bow goes down, thus washing two passengers overboard. The Captain is at fault!!!!


    I alway assume these are lawyer generated suits relying on the gulibility of jurys — but a 24 foot boat designed both for wake boarding and holding 18 people seems out of the realm of common sense. I also feel that if someone buys something with no understanding of the product there needs to be some safe guards in place –there is a difference between not being responsible for the actions of stupid people, and proffiting from talking stupid people into buying something they are not capable of handling. Obviously there is much more to the story than what a short article can describe.

  8. Stevc

    In some states it is illegal to ride forward of the windshield while underway. Too bad California doesn’t have that rule. What protection do companies have against unreasonable lawsuits like this one? I remember a warranty claim because the new owner of a 20′ runabout damaged the bow wave jumping in 6′ waves. What if I jumped 6′ bumps in my new car?

  9. entitled

    I think this says it all:

    “If Jerry Montz knew then what he knows now, this accident would not have happened,” Montz’s lawyer Jerry Duncan said.

    Duncan & Montz = Dumb & Dumber!


    Proof again that the only thing you need to buy a boat and open the throtle is a down payment. At least with motor vehicles you have to pass a test and profess some knowledge of safety . I see crap like this over loaded boat every week here on the gulf coast of Florida and I am sure it takes place on all navigatable water ways in this country. Yet there are those in the industry who say safety courses should not be mandatory. Once again we are out own worst enemy.

  11. Butch

    “Switching ends,” as it has sometimes been called since the ’60s, is one of the characteristics of the of the inboard ski boat, that is, a hard turn to bury the nose and raise the stern effecting a 180 degree turn on the proverbial dime. Virtually every Cypress Garden ski show ended with this trick in front of the beach. This boat was uncomfortably overloaded, and the boat manufacturer certainly should not be held liable for operator inexperience, ignorance, or reckless behavior.

  12. SteveO

    Clearly the plaintiffs are going after the deepest pockets. One has medical bills exceeding $2M and will need lifelong care. I doubt anyone thinks the boat manufacturer is actually responsible, but the plaintiffs will grasp at anything. If lawsuits were about actual merit and responsibility, the lawyers wouldn’t exclude anyone with half a brain off the jury.

  13. Tom

    I find it amazing that you all have definite opinions on this matter based upon one abbreviated newspaper article. Apparently the majority of you are not boaters so rest assured that those of us that are, don’t put too much into your opinions, especially since boating laws here in Ca are different than in other states. Maybe we should be a little more responsible and wait until more information and/or the verdict comes out? After all, the jury has had the benefit of hearing the entire case.

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