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  1. #1
    ramnj's Avatar
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    Watercraft warnings debated at trial

    Article posted on PWCToday Forum from Sun-Sentinel.com:

    Sticker wouldn't have prevented crash, firm says

    By Missy Stoddard
    Staff Writer
    Posted January 18 2006

    One thing is certain: 12-year-old Christina Hernandez longed to operate a personal watercraft, attorneys said Tuesday. And on a sunny August day in 1999, Christina's wish came true.

    Within two minutes, the Greenacres girl crashed into a Juno Isles dock and her young life was over. A Palm Beach County jury must now decide who was at fault.

    In a negligence lawsuit, Christina's mother, Tammy Roberts, blames watercraft manufacturer Bombardier for her daughter's tragic death. Despite knowing that children 16 and younger had a history of getting hurt or killed while operating personal watercraft, plaintiff's attorney Robert Baker said in an opening statement, Bombardier failed to require a conspicuous warning sticker alerting minors not to operate them.

    "The lack of an age-based warning renders the product defective," Baker told jurors.

    On a large screen, jurors saw the imprint of Christina's chin where it slammed into the dock.

    Bombardier, according to Baker, was negligent by not following competitors that had some form of age-based warning on their watercraft. A circle with the number 16 with a line through it -- signifying that anyone younger than 16 should not operate the watercraft -- would have been all it would have taken, Baker argued.

    Not so, countered Bombardier attorney Scott Sarason. The accident occurred as a result of an excited, inexperienced preteen operating a powerful machine by herself in the Intracoastal Waterway, he claimed. Investigators determined the accident's cause to be operator inexperience, the lawyer said.

    "Would a circle with a 16 with a line through it have stopped Christina Hernandez?" Sarason asked. "It defies logic."

    Roberts worked as a housekeeper for nursing home magnate Elizabeth Fago. In the summer of 1999, Fago purchased a Sea Doo for her then 17-year-old son, Joey, Baker said. The young man chose a snappy bright yellow model weighing 428 pounds that tops 50 mph.

    On the day of the accident, Christina's stepfather briefly left her with Joey and his 16-year-old girlfriend at Fago's home near Juno Beach, Baker said. As soon as the children were alone, Christina asked to go for a spin on the watercraft. After about five minutes of instruction, Joey handed over control to Christina, according to the lawyers. It was an irresponsible decision that falls in the lap of a privileged young man accustomed to making decisions without the benefit of adult supervision, Sarason argued.

    Age warnings were addressed in both the watercraft's operator's guide and safety video, Sarason said, adding that Bombardier should not be liable if Joey Fago chose not to read them.

    http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/loc...sfla-news-palm


  2. #2
    There is no VooDoo like BadVooDoo NeVerMind's Avatar
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    Why do people's (read parents) lack of responsibility always end up as a law suit against a big corporation?

    $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

    The parents should be suied by DCFS for leaving the child with irresponsible supervision and the owner of the vehicle should get heat for letting a child ride.

    I have a 70+ MPH ski... Do you think I let just ANYONE ride it? I won't let a 16 year old ride my ski... I know better.


  3. #3
    Moderator Franko's Avatar
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    You find the most illogical arguments in "failure to warn" cases. Usually, there is a wildly irresponsible act that causes an accident. The person who committed the wildly irresponsible act then argues that they would have transformed into a responsible person if only the product manufacturer would have included a warning label or a blurb in the owner's manual.

    For example, in this case, the girl is alleged to have been dreaming of riding a PWC. Presumably, this means she gave some thought to the issue. That probably means she learned that she had to reach the age of 14 before she could legally ride one. So when she hopped on the thing, she knew she was breaking the law. But in the fantasy world of litigation, we are to believe that a warning sticker telling her not to ride the PWC unless she was at least 14 would have accomplished what a state law could not. In other words, state law did not matter, but a warning sticker would have. Sounds logical doesn't it?

  4. #4
    Happily Self-Employed WFO's Avatar
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    ...its kinda like the warning label on McDonalds coffee stating

    COFFEE IS HOT

    ...they will get a warning label and a settlement out of the deal

    sucks but that is how the system works

  5. #5
    Its a shame but unfortunately "TIME AND UNFORSEEN OCCURENCE CAN BEFALL ANY OF US AT ANY TIME" Sometimes no one is to blame.

  6. #6
    Moderator Franko's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WFO
    ...its kinda like the warning label on McDonalds coffee stating

    COFFEE IS HOT

    ...they will get a warning label and a settlement out of the deal

    sucks but that is how the system works
    You struck a nerve here. I have defended McD against several hot coffee cases since that case. I even defended one against the same lawyer that brought the original case in New Mexico. We don't pay much on those cases anymore

  7. #7
    Legend in my own mind Sirhc7897's Avatar
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    I can't believe people would still actually try to sue McD's over "hot " coffee...

    For me that takes the idea of "beating a dead horse" to a whole new level...

  8. #8
    Moderator Franko's Avatar
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    I haven't had any coffee cases in over a year, but they still exist. There have been many of them since the first one in 1994.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by WFO
    ...its kinda like the warning label on McDonalds coffee stating

    COFFEE IS HOT

    ...they will get a warning label and a settlement out of the deal

    sucks but that is how the system works
    Well put!

    It's sad anytime someone loses there life on the water... But let's get real, you can't sue Ford everytime someone drinks, drives and dies... The laws are in place and if you chose to not follow them, that's on you (or you leagal gardian.)

    Either way, it's sad that she died!

  10. #10

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    I have a fast ski, I let two other ride it... My Brother (2 and my wife (27). They respect it and the water, they both know the work I've put into it and undersatnd that it's fast and can really hurt someone if something goes wrong. Any one else asks if they can ride, I just give them this dumb look and say sorry.

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