Ruling against Brunswick upheld in propeller accident

AUSTIN, Texas — The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week affirmed the decision by a federal jury that found Brunswick Corp. partially responsible for a 2005 boating accident where a teenager’s leg was severed by a propeller.

Brunswick’s appeal argued that Jacob Brochtrup, who was 18 years old at the time of the injury, did not present sufficient evidence that the boat’s design was unreasonably dangerous or that a safer alternative design existed, according to the Court of Appeals decision.

The appeals court ruled Brochtrup did present sufficient evidence and that a reasonable jury could find the MerCruiser design unreasonably dangerous, the decision said.

According to the decision, Brunswick also argued that Brochtrup did not provide sufficient evidence of the economic feasibility of the alternative design that guarded the propeller. The appeals court found the testimony of Guy Taylor, who invented the design and testified the total cost for the item and its welding onto the boat as being $400, was enough evidence to prove economic feasibility.

The appeal stems from a lawsuit brought against Brunswick that found the company and Mercury Marine partially liable and ordered Brunswick to pay $3.8 million to Brochtrup for medical expenses and damages.

Celebrating over the July Fourth weekend in 2005, Brochtrup jumped off the back of the 17.6-foot Sea Ray to retrieve a towrope that had fallen off the boat. Unaware of Brochtrup, the driver put the boat in reverse, resulting in the propeller shredding Brochtrup’s right leg.

For more on the case, here is an April 2010 article about the case.

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