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.

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