Court Rejects Plaintiff’s Product Liability Case Following Serious Personal Watercraft Injury

Recently, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury case that illustrates an important point to those who have been injured in a Maryland boating accident and believe their injuries were due to the inadequate warnings or defective construction or design of the vehicle. The case required the court to determine if the plaintiff’s case against the manufacturer of a personal water craft (PWC) was sufficient as a matter of law.

Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s case was not sufficient because it relied wholly on expert testimony that was found to be inadmissible at trial.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was riding as the fourth passenger on a PWC that was being operated by a 10-year-old child. At the time, the plaintiff had consumed some amount of alcohol, although it was unclear as to her level of inebriation. The plaintiff was wearing a bikini and was not wearing a wetsuit.

At some point, the plaintiff fell off the PWC and into the PWC’s jet stream, sustaining serious injuries to her colon, vagina, and anus. The plaintiff filed a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer of the PWC, claiming that the warnings on the machine were inadequate and that the machine was defectively designed.

In support of her claim, the plaintiff presented an expert who planned to testify to the inadequacy of the warnings. According to photographs attached to the court’s opinion, the warnings on the PWC were contained on the front glove box and rear boarding platform. The warnings explained that riders should wear a wetsuit to protect against “severe internal injuries.” The expert planned to testify that alternative warnings would have been more effective because the location of the warnings on the PWC was “congested,” and had the warnings been located somewhere else, riders would be more likely to read and comprehend them.

The court, however, rejected the expert’s testimony, finding it was inadmissible at trial. Specifically, the court explained that the expert did not rely on any scientific data when making his opinion. Instead, he relied only on his experience in dealing with the safety of PWCs. This, the court held, was insufficient to establish the reliability of his opinion.

Once the court struck the expert’s opinion as to the alternative-warning theory, the rest of the plaintiff’s case fell apart. The court explained that, without any basis for concluding that the warnings were inadequate or that better warnings were available, the expert’s testimony did not establish that the manufacturer’s warning was insufficient as a matter of law. The court then rejected the plaintiff’s defective-design claim based on the fact that, under relevant state law, a manufacturer is permitted to rely on adequate warnings to avoid liability in a defective-design lawsuit.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Boat or Personal Watercraft Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a personal watercraft accident or boat accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Maryland boating accident attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience handling all types of Maryland injury lawsuits, including those involving inadequate warnings and defectively designed products. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule your free consultation today.

More Blog Posts:

Establishing Liability Following a Maryland Hit-and-Run Accident, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published March 21, 2018.

Court Dismisses Negligent Entrustment Claim in Recent Motorcycle Accident Case, Maryland Motorcycle Accident Lawyer Blog, published April 5, 2018.

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