A trial has begun in Naples in a lawsuit alleging that design defects were responsible for a woman’s disabling and disfiguring injuries, the Naples Daily News reported June 8. Audrey Decker, 64, and her husband, 66-year-old Fred Decker, are suing boat engine manufacturer Boston Whaler over a 1999 accident in which Audrey Decker fell overboard, sustaining serious injuries when her body became entangled with the boat’s propeller. The case was contentious, with the judge in the case repeatedly warning defense attorneys that they would be penalized if they continued to reargue settled issues or personally attack the plaintiffs’ attorneys.
Fred Decker was cited for careless operation of his boat that day, with alcohol involvement, but no charges were filed. However, the Deckers’ claim is a South Florida products liability lawsuit, which means that the reason Audrey Decker fell overboard isn’t being disputed. Instead, the couple alleges that the boat was defectively designed because manufacturers didn’t include a propeller guard, an inexpensive part that keeps objects out of the path of the propeller’s sharp blades. The judge ruled that the case is about the “crashworthiness” of the boat — meaning that, because boating accidents are foreseeable, the question is whether the manufacturer did enough to forestall serious injuries in accidents.
A June 6 article from the Daily News details the injuries Audrey Decker suffered in the accident. She lost her left eye, her left breast and part of her nose and lip in the accident. Doctors saved her left arm, but it’s heavily scarred and the slightest touch causes her pain because of nerve damage. Her face is heavily scarred and disfigured by the loss of fat and bone. She has had 40 operations since the accident, but children and adults still stare sometimes, making her reluctant to leave the house. She takes pain medication regularly and needs help performing household tasks. She can no longer work, and the Deckers sold their home to pay some of her medical bills, living in a trailer for two years before they could afford another.
The Daily News cited federal statistics saying Americans had 80 accidents with boat propellers in 2007, causing seven deaths and 75 injuries. As a Pompano Beach boating accident lawyer, I know that’s a tiny fraction of boating accidents — the U.S. Coast Guard reported 685 deaths from recreational boating in the same year. The same report said 485 people fell overboard from any cause, suggesting that it’s easy for boating companies and boat parts manufacturers to anticipate falling-overboard accidents. As with all manufacturers in Florida, these boating manufacturers are legally obligated to design products that don’t pose an unreasonable risk, including a risk from a foreseeable accident. If they fail in that duty, victims have the right to hold them responsible for the results with a Miami-Dade product defects lawsuit.
If you or someone you love was seriously hurt in South Florida by flaws in any consumer product, you have the right to hold the manufacturer legally liable for the results. That includes design flaws, manufacturing problems and failure by the manufacturer to warn you about the dangers of using the product. Cohn, Smith & Cohn can help. Our Cape Coral defective product lawyers have more than 25 years of experience helping Floridians get justice after a serious accident. We can help victims win the money they need to pay medical bills; make ends meet while they cannot work; and compensate them for the painful and sometimes lifelong effects of a serious injury.