CHICO, Calif. — A jury yesterday awarded $30 million to a California woman whose head was gashed by a boat propeller in a wakeboarding accident five years ago, according to a report in the Sacramento Bee.
The Superior Court panel laid 80 percent of the blame for the injuries suffered by 27-year-old Niki Bell on MasterCraft Boat Co.
Plaintiffs' lawyers charged the MasterCraft X45 has a design flaw that caused the front end of the boat to submerge partially during a low-speed turn and dump Bell and another woman into the water.
MasterCraft's lawyer, Thomas Dale Nielsen, also of Sacramento, said the accident was the first for the boat, which is sold nationwide.
Along with the 80 percent of responsibility the jury assigned to MasterCraft, it also found boat operator Jerry Montz, now 33, liable for 20 percent of the damages suffered by Bell and Wallenburg.
According to evidence at the trial, Montz had been drinking at the time of the accident and registered a blood-alcohol level of 0.04 percent. He was arrested after the July 9, 2006, accident and later pleaded no contest to negligent operation of a watercraft, according to his lawyer.
Nielsen said MasterCraft "will consider its appellate options" in assessing the verdict.
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