Boating is a popular outdoor activity in Florida, with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) reporting some 932,000 registered vessels as of 2016. However, it can also be a potentially very dangerous one. There were more than 700 reported boating accidents in the state last year. A total of 67 people died – with 70 percent of operators involved in fatal boating accidents having no formal boater education.
While operator error is the most commonly-cited cause of Florida boating accidents, the failure of the vessel or one of its components can’t be overlooked. While the former would help establish liability on a theory of negligence, the latter would establish product liability. In order for product liability to be applicable, we would look at the mechanics of the vessel and whether it performed as expected and/ or whether consumers were warned about foreseeable dangers.
In a recent boating accident case out of Louisiana, the state supreme court there affirmed a $125,000 verdict against a boating manufacturer, but did find the punitive damage award of $23 million to be excessive. In turn, the court amended the punitive damage judgment to $4.25 million. Continue reading →