MasterCraft appeals boat design verdict

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MasterCraft officially filed its notice of appeal in a case that resulted in a more than $30 million judgment against the boatbuilder.

"MasterCraft has filed a notice of appeal with the Butte County (Calif.) Superior Court on Sept. 14, 2011. This is the first step in appealing the verdict in Bell v. Mastercraft Boat Company, et al. MasterCraft believes that the verdict was the result of a flawed trial and is not supported by the law or the facts. It is Mastercraft's hope that the California Court of Appeals will overturn this unjust outcome,” attorney Walt Millar said in a statement.

The appeal will be heard in the Third District Court of Appeals in Sacramento, Calif.

Last month, a Superior Court judge rejected MasterCraft's request for a new trial.

A jury ruled in June that MasterCraft was 80 percent at fault in a July 9, 2006, accident in which Niki Bell and Bethany Mercer, formerly Wallenburg, were swept off a MasterCraft X-45 wakeboarding boat and struck by its propeller. Jurors found that the driver, Jerry Montz, was 20 percent at fault. Montz admitted to drinking alcohol on the day of the accident, and there were more passengers on the boat than the manufacturer recommended.

The jury awarded $30.9 million in damages to Bell and $530,688 to Mercer.

“We remain committed to the X-45 being a great, safe boat. It’s got a tremendous safety record. It’s fully compliant with NMMA, ABYC and the U.S. Coast Guard,” John Dorton, president and CEO of MasterCraft, previously told Soundings Trade Only.

“The [plaintiff ’s attorneys] see this as a case of as someone trying to go after what’s perceived as deep pockets. No one in the marine industry has deep pockets anymore,” he said. “I think any reasonable boater understands that this is a ridiculous verdict.”

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