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Mercury Marine Moving Propeller (MP) Alert

Mercury Marine Moving Propeller (MP) Alert

We covered Brunswick / Mercury Marine’s Moving Propeller Alert back in November 2011.

We followed that post up with a call for inventors and college project classes to consider trying design a free standing, energy harvesting, self powered version that did not require the use of the expensive underlying Smart Craft bus system.

Now, about two years later, Brunswick’s patent for the Moving Propeller Alert issued from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

U.S. Patent 8,803,711
System and Methods for Displaying Operational Characteristics of Marine Vessels.

Inventor: Steven J. Gonring.
Assignee: Brunswick Corporation.
Issued 12 August 2014.

The patent application was filed back on January 28, 2011. It is a continuation of an application filed 22 September 2010 (about 4 years ago) so it probably had some problems along the way.

The patent cites U.S. Patent 7,247,063 by Marc S.Lemchen that detects propeller rotation and/or CO2 presence and generated a warning signal with the intent to warn a swimmer in the proximity.

The basic premise of the invention is that a device a bit larger than a coaster that has a series of led lights in the form of a circle (a circular array of lights). The lights blink in a rotary sequence to suggest rotation when the propeller is rotating at low to moderate speeds. Read More→

0 Categories : New Products

The boating industry has a long history of misleading the public and authorities by providing recreational boat propeller accident counts much lower than the official accident statistics provided by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Several of these instances result from the industry falsely using Event 1 only statistics to represent the total number of propeller accidents, injuries, or fatalities. U.S. Coast Guard reports accidents as a sequence of events (like Event 1 = collision with submerged object, Event 2 = fell overboard, Event 3 = struck by propeller). Most propeller accidents tend to be reported as Event 2 or Event 3 accidents. Something else happens first, like a collision with fixed object, collision with submerged object, collision with floating object, collision with recreational vessel, falls overboard, etc, then the person is struck by the propeller.

We highlighted a table from USCG’s 2010 Boating Statistics below as an example.

USCG 2010 Propeller Accident Statistics

USCG 2010 Propeller Accident Statistics

USCG’s 2010 Table 17 above shows 179 accidents, 27 deaths, and 178 injuries from Person Struck by Propeller. The industry keeps wanting to use the Event 1 data only to the left (49 people struck).

From 2003 through 2012, there have been about 49 to 107 Event 1 propeller accidents per year with about 1 to 8 fatalities per year resulting from those Event 1 accidents.

However, during the same years there have been a total of about 176 to 266 propeller accidents per year with about 19 to 47 fatalities per year resulting from those accidents per USCG.

When the industry only cites Event 1 accidents they are significantly misrepresenting the total number of reported propeller accidents.

We have covered some instances of the boating industry misrepresenting these statistics in the past. We recently encountered another one, and decided to pull some of them together into this post.

  • Dick Snyder, Mercury Marine propeller accident expert and industry expert witness – 1988 presentation and letters concerning the upcoming 1989 USCG National Boating Safety Advisory Council (NBSAC) Propeller Guard Subcommittee Report.
  • Bill Calore, General Counsel Volvo Penta – Presentation to NBSAC 1996.
  • Ralph Lambrecht, longtime OMC technician and industry expert – Boat and Motor Dealer. Sep/Oct 2006.
  • Don Kueny, OMC Chief Marine Engineer – the June 2009 Audrey Decker trial.
  • Pete Chisholm, Mercury Marine / Brunswick Corporation – the Jacob Brochtrup trial (April 2010) and in Brunswick’s request for a rehearing (June 2011).

Read More→

The two major U.S. recreational marine drive companies of the past many years: Brunswick / Mercury Marine and Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC) have been in the forefront of “debunking” propeller guards in court since the 1970’s. In this post we estimate their total expenses in developing propeller guards designed to protect people at less than $25,000 combined.

Outboard Marine Corporation was formed in 1929 from the merger of two existing outboard motor manufacturers. OMC went bankrupt in December 2000, but their insurance company still represents them against propeller injury claims.

Mercury Marine began as Kiekhaefer Corporation in 1939, and was acquired by Brunswick Corporation in 1961.

During the late 1980’s and in the 1990’s OMC and Mercury often worked together in testing propeller guards, most notably during the November-December 1990 SUNY tests. They also collaborated on legal defense efforts. Dick Snyder, Mercury Marine’s expert witness in propeller injury cases, served as an expert for OMC in several cases as well. Plus they conducted a large joint mock propeller trial in early 1989. Mercury later tried to downplay this period of legal cooperation with OMC against their common enemy (propeller injury suits). We mention this period of cooperation because it is relevant to Mercury and OMC being the major industry voices in the U.S. against propeller guards.

We (and they) have occasionally been asked how much money they spent trying to develop a “people protecting” propeller guard. The “people protecting” part is important as the industry has developed a few propeller guards which they claim were not for protecting people or were for protecting people in an extremely limited instance. Quite recently we were asked this same question again so we began to gather documents and created this post. Read More→

0 Categories : Legal Shorts

McGarrigle v. Mercury Marine was settled today, August 28, 2012. Earlier today Judge Noel Hillman of the United States District Court for the State of New Jersey signed the “Stipulation of Dismissal and Order” in which the parties voluntarily dismissed the case with prejudice against all defendants, meaning the case was settled.

In John and Barbara McGarrigle v. Mercury Marine in the United States District Court, D. New Jersey, John McGarrigle fell from a small outboard powered boat in choppy water in July 2007. The boat went into the “Circle of Death”, McGarrible tried to grab it to reboard, and was struck by the propeller. Read More→

1 Categories : Legal Shorts

Dick Snyder, Mercury Marine’s expert witness in propeller guard cases, designed a propeller guard back in 1989.

Placing the event in historical perspective, this was a very eventful time. The U.S. Coast Guard NBSAC Propeller Guard Subcommittee was formed on May 11, 1988, met twice more in 1988, met in May of 1989, then delivered their final report in November of 1989. Also in 1989, the Institute for Injury Reduction, led by Ben Kelley, was loudly calling for the use of propeller guards. In November and December of 1990, Mercury Marine and Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC) ran the propeller guard tests in the circular tank at State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo using the Snyder guard on a OMC outboard. In 1991, Mercury Marine was able to convince a court to dismiss a propeller case based on Federal Pre-emption (a defense the boating industry then employed for almost a decade).

It seems like an odd time for Mercury to be developing a propeller guard. Documents indicate they were probably attracted by the potential to sell a large number of outboards to the military. At that time Rigid Raiding Craft (RRC) were 18 foot Boston Whalers powered by twin OMC 70 horsepower outboards. Note, this was before Brunswick owned Boston Whaler.

The military was in process of beefing up its riverine, littoral, brown water capabilities. Rigid Raiding Craft (inflatable hard bottomed boats) were announced in 1987. Rigid Raiding Craft were to be directly launched from internal bays of larger vessels offshore, to carry soldiers to shore for quick actions, then return them to the larger “Mother Ship”. They were often used for Over-The-Horizon (OTH) raids. Read More→

0 Categories : Legal Shorts

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa Western Division filed documents yesterday (June 12, 2012) stating the court has been advised the case has been settled and the parties anticipate no further action beyond filing a stipulated dismissal.

We covered this case involving the death of a young boy earlier in our Estate of David Paul McFarlin and Jamie Laass vs. Brunswick Corporation (Mercury Marine and Lund Company) and Others post.

In addition, we posted some lists of similar accidents (boats striking dredge pipes and outboard motors striking objects and flying back up into boats).

We also created a series of posts on the history of log strike testing (on water, dry land impact testing, and computer simulated) in response to the industry’s response to a 1950’s log strike test film in this case.

The PACER Court document system indicates a separate suit was filed on May 30, 2012 against the marina (Lakeside Marina in Storm Lake Iowa).

While these settlements are typically secret, since this one involved a city, we were able to obtain the documents the city approved for payment. Those documents indicate the settlement was for $1.2 million of which:

  • $800,000 is to be paid by the City of Storm Lake, Buena Vista County, and the Lake Improvement Commmission
  • $199,999 is to be paid by Harry Foote (the boat operator)
  • $300,000 is to be paid by Brunswick Corporation

Checks are to be written to the attorney, “Munger, Reinschmidt & Denne, L.L.P., for the benefit of the Estate of David Paul McFarlin, Jamie Laass, and Stevie Long.” The actual division of funds will be:

  • $200,000 to the Estate of David Paul McFarlin (the deceased young boy)
  • $974,999 to Jamie Lass (the mother)
  • $25,000 to Stevie Long (the deceased boy’s sister)

The City, County, and Lake Commission also agree to provide additional information and testimony in any future litigation against other non protected parties in this accident.

The City of Storm Lake notes most of their payment will be covered by their insurer. The City’s insurer (EMC) will also cover any legal fees or settlement cost of city employees named in the suit outside of any personal attorney fees they incurred on their own.

Some litigation is still in progress. The deceased boy’s father has filed a suit as has the family of the other boy injured in the accident. Plus action is still proceeding against other parties not involved in this settlement.


20 November 2013 Update – one of the separate cases, Estate of David Paul McFarlin by its Personal Representative, Jamie Laass, v. Lakeside Marina, Inc, focused on the lack of warnings about the dredge pipe at the marina the family launched the boat from. Lakeside Marina motioned for Summary Judgement (claiming they had no duty to warn) and the motion was granted on 24 October 2013, effectively dismissing the case against the marina. The case was in the same court, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa Western Division.

We were a bit surprised by the ruling in the marina case. Marinas are basically entryways to lakes and make their living off the lake being there. A marina is somewhat like a booth taking money from you when you enter a campgrounds (except the marina does not own the lake). While it might seem logical for the marina to owe a duty to its users to warn them of nearby unseen dangers on the lake, and if you were launching your boat from a marina you would hope the marina would warn you of those unseen dangers, attorneys were unable to convince the judge that the marina owed a legal duty to its users to warn them of such dangers.


0 Categories : Legal Shorts

As outboard motors began to increase in horsepower, speeds went up, and striking submerged objects became more dangerous. Manufacturers designed systems to handle the loads created from striking logs or other submerged objects, and ways to test those systems.

We (PGIC) cover log strike testing because the industry often uses log strike tests to evaluate propeller guards, most notably as a defense against the use of guards in propeller injury legal cases.

Part 2 of this post, Log Strike Testing Part 2 covers the testing of these systems at Mercury Marine.

Before we cover the history of log strike testing (in Part 2), we will first explain:

  • Variables and Dynamics of a Log Strike
  • Log Strikes With Manual Trim Systems
  • Conventional Shock Absorbers as Log Strike Systems
  • Hydraulic Trim Systems Are Challenged by Log Strikes
  • Trim Cylinder Design for Absorbing / Cushioning Log Strikes
  • Trim Cylinder Relief Valve Spring Rates and Preloads
  • Trim Cylinder and Outboard Shock Absorber Patents

Read More→

A Discussion of the History of Log Strike Testing at Mercury (Kiekhaefer Corporation), Kiekhaefer Mercury, and Later at Mercury Marine, a Brunswick Company

Please be sure to review Part 1 before reading this section. In Log Strike Testing Part 1: Log Strikes and Log Strike Systems we review what happens during a log strike and systems designed to dissipate these impact loads.

Here in Part 2 we discuss methods used to test log strike systems to make sure they are properly designed to accommodate loads generated at maximum design speeds, that production units meet those design criteria, and that accessories (like propeller guards) do not cause issues during log strikes. Read More→

Log strike tests have long been used by Mercury to prove their outboards and stern drives could survive the impact of striking submerged logs and other floating or submerged obstacles. In the original log strike tests, Mercury’s test crew used concrete weights to position telephone poles horizontally in open water, then ran boats over them. One of these early tests is documented in a Mercury (then built by Kiekhaefer Corporation) video prepared for Mercury distributors and dealers.

We (PGIC) cover log strike testing because the industry often uses log strike tests to evaluate propeller guards, most notably as a defense against the use of guards in propeller injury legal cases.

This early log strike test video surfaced when we began doing some research surrounding the Estate of David Paul McFarlin and Jamie Laass vs. Brunswick Corporation (Mercury Marine and Lund Company) and Others case in which a family boating outing ran over a dredge pipe, a Mercury Marine outboard flipped back up into the boat, and a young boy was killed by the propeller. As I started searching for more information about log strike tests, I found this old Mercury log strike test video.

Mercury Log Strike Test

Mercury Log Strike Test

Read More→

We attended the 2012 Tulsa Boat Show on Saturday morning February 4, 2012. While still getting used to my new digital camera, Lora and I walked around and shot photos of propeller warning decals. I am well aware there is quite a bit of variety in propeller warning decals, but found an even broader selection at this show than I would have anticipated. We show some of them below, as well as some other warning labels seen at the 2012 Tulsa Boat Show.

The comments below are NOT an analysis of boat propeller warning labels. They are just our quick observations of some of the variety seen in propeller warning labels at a single boat show. We are not saying any of the labels are better or worse than others. We are just saying they are different. We continue to encourage the industry to adopt ANSI Z535 standards for boat propeller warning labels.

Propeller Warning Decal with Ladder

Propeller Warning Decal with Ladder

Many propeller warning decals are used in conjunction with the boat boarding ladder as shown in the Brunswick Bayliner boat ladder example above. We talk further about Brunswick’s use of a Danger label instead of the typical Warning label later in this post. Read More→

2 Categories : Legal Shorts