Listman vs OMC trial Verdict announced

Follow Us On TwitterThis post is part of our coverage of the Listman v. OMC propeller injury trial

Robin Listman vs. Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC)
Second Judicial District Court of the State of Nevada, County of Washoe

Our coverage was obtained via a video feed supplied by Courtroom View Network (CVN). The images are also courtesy of CVN.

Listman Trial - Judge Jerome Polaha

Judge Jerome Polaha image courtesy of CVN


Bailiff received the verdict from the Jury, gave it to Judge Polaha, he read it, then gave it to the clerk to read.

The clerk read the verdict approximately 11:10 am Pacific Time Monday November 21, 2011.

Question 1 Did the Defendant design the product in question? Yes

If answer to Question Number One is yes, proceed to Question Number 2

Question 2 Was the product unreasonably dangerous i.e. it failed to perform in the manner reasonably to be expected in light of its nature and intended function and was more dangerous than would be contemplated by the ordinary user having the ordinary knowledge available in the community and accordingly defective? No

If you answer to Question Number 2 is no you verdict for defendant and you are not to proceed further except to sign and return this verdict.

The jury was polled. Six said the verdict was theirs as read, two said no, meaning vote was 6 to 2.

Judge Polaha thanked the jury for their service and adjourned.


  1. Hard to believe a jury would feel a product that injures on average 150 people a year and kills between 20 and 30 is not defective. I am so disappointed.

    • How many people die in car accidents each year? Are all cars defective? Gimmi a break, everybody with a minimum of common sense understands a rotating propeller is dangerous and even if the injured person was not at fault that the operator commited a stupid and dangerous act, that does not mean the motor/propeller is defective.

      • You are right…cars are not dangerous when parked in the garage..put a teenager behind the wheel and things do change. the auto industry at least try’s to protect your loved ones from that drunk driver…. Boats have the same safety features that they did 50 yrs ago.

  2. great verdict! Boats are safe, people are dangerous..

    Where’s the suit against the operator? Didn’t have deep enough pockets? Why now allow a suit against the oil company that produced the fuel allowing the engine to operate or the marina for allowing boats into the water?

  3. Score one for commonsense! There have been hundreds of thousands of boats built in the 50 years that stern drives have been available, the engine design is perfectly safe when used with proper care. Commonsense should tell you to stop the engine if someone is in the water near the stern of the boat! What was this stupid guy thinking when he shifted into reverse and backed down with a woman directly behind the boat?? My thought is that this was an accident ,pure and simple, perhaps he didn’t realize she had fallen in? The engine/drive design was NOT unsafe WHEN USED AS INTENDED. This accident was caused by the operator, NOT the propeller!!
    The propeller on a boat is no more dangerous (and is perhaps LESS dangerous!) than the exposed propeller on a small aircraft, or the blade on a lawnmower. A table saw is more dangerous, as is a chain saw,or garden tiller, let’s not forget the meat slicer at the deli!
    Life is full of risks, but we need to accept those risks and BE CAREFUL!

    For once a jury was actually smart enough to not blame a manufacturer for the misuse of it’s product. OMC (or the current defendant?) can not control how it’s product is used or misused, accidents happen. This ruling was CORRECT!

    • Please look at your lawn mower again. My lawnmower has more safety features than a brand new boat. My 10 year old mower has a kill switch, sides surrounding the blade, a rubber flap on the back to keep little toes out and a catcher flap that will not open if the engine is on.
      Do you own a table saw? Is there a guard? mine has a rather substantial guard. My chain saw has a kill swich, hand guard, spark arrester…..Boats have stickers
      So you are saying that she deserved to have her leg mangled by a propeller because the driver had a lapse of attention? that was somehow her fault. He did take responsibility for his actions….but she still has no leg. A guard would have made this a band aid injury rather than 10 hr surgery injury.

      So go to your mower, chain saw, table saw and car, take the safety featues off and enjoy…….see you at the hospital.

  4. Hard to believe we actually had a jury that lives in the real world! Chalk one up for real justice!

    STAR – Cars (i should say people in cars) kill a lot more poeple than boats, should we call all cars defective? If someone stepped behind your car to pick up a toy and you backed over them, who is at fault? The CAR? I don’t think so! Wake up!

    • Your right it would be my fault. But that kid would most likely be DEAD. Is that ok?
      No the kid deserves a chance. If he is so small I cannot see him in my mirrors is it HIS fault? Does HE deserve to DIE because I couldnt see him? Does he deserve to DIE because his 2 or 3 year old mind doesnt see the risk? Does he deserve to die because I had a lapse of attention. I say now most new cars have some sort of device to save that innocent kid from my inability to see him. Yup it would be my fault. Id probably be sued or even get some jail time…But the innocent little kid would be DEAD. Even if I take responibility for my own actions a kid would die…..If thats ok with you then i do feel sorry for you.

  5. The correct verdict was rendered.The operator is the one at fault.People need to take responsibility for their actions, not blame everyone else and sue.That’s what is wrong in this country.

  6. “Hard to believe” says a commenter. It’s hard to believe that no one takes responsibility for themselves and their actions anymore, but it happens. But using your analogy, it’s hard to believe that the automobile, in which 1.2 million people die each year, has not been deemed defective. Oh right, it’s the driver, not the car…. you had confused me for a minute.

    • How many people would die if cars did not have any safety features? I would bet the farm it would be a higher number. At least the auto industy is trying.

  7. I guess cars must really be defective if you apply that logic. It is about time a jury has some sense!

  8. Very good news. It is unfortunate that OMC had to pay for 10 years of legal fees because some lawyer took this case on a contingency, probably knowing that it was an accident and only an accident but because OMC had deep pockets they could try to bleed some off.

    • Not all law suits are about the money. The boating industry has adopted stickers as their idea of protecting their consumers. They will not change until they are forced to.The only way to get their attention is to hit them in the only thing they care about and thats thier wallet.

  9. I have built one test boat inboard that had a steerable prop guard or ducted propeller. It is a 11.5′ launch diesel powered with a 12″ bronze prop with a 13″ ID SS rudder guard 7″ long that totally enclosed the prop around its perimeter. The boat was tested for several NE seasons under various conditions. We found that the guarded prop added greatly to maneuverability especially in reverse. The boat was limited to 12mph with 23hp. We had similar hulls using 15hp standard outboards with one person on board to 40mph. This boat although heavier should have been faster. Not having a non ducted version to test we have no comparison. The guard did catch objects like plastic bottles impailing them only removed by total manual destruction. The boat also caught on lines from the lower pivot rod used as a lower bearing. We found although a bit safer would not be commercially viable even in the workboat market due to efficiency loss. I also concluded that being struck at speed bunt force trauma could kill people in the water. The conclusion is as this jury found. Open prop boats are not a defective product any more than open prop airplanes. That and people are not compatable if hit by a fast moving metal object being prop or boat hull, rudder, etc.

      I’d be interested in seeing the guard you tested. Would you contact me?

    • So your saying you would rather your child get knocked against a propeller that is spinning 2500RPM’s than a metal great? Interesting.

      • Uhm so why did you build it? because you feel props are dangerous or was it just for the money??? Thats alot of work and time trying to cover something that is so safe.

  10. At Last some sanity!! Next they will be trying to claim off the car manufactures or even the tyre manufactures when their stupid enough to get run over!! However I do feal for the lady! But they should be looking at the operator!

  11. I pray that none of you ever have a car accident caused by one of the “stupid” people. If you do you will certianly be glad that the auto industry has kept consumer safety up to date. You and your loved ones will be glad for seat belts, air bags, crumple zones, antilock brakes, traction control, onstar, head rests, shatter proof(tempered) glass, padded dash, knee impact relief zones………… If that same accident happens in a boat what safety features are there to protect your wives, kids, friends or family……They offer some cool colored stickers saying hey dont get in the water….what if its not your fault you ended up there? I can almost guantee that if a plane prop injured several hundred people a year and killed 30-50 the FAA would make some changes…hell they take your fingernail clippers. All of you brave souls should cut out your seat belts, take off the guard on your lawnmower, disable your garage door sensors and send your little kids out to play with them.

  12. For those of you who think OMC is a good company and may change check this out.

  13. The issue that STAR does not seem to understand is that this is a legal question, not a philosophical one. Every product ever built could be in some way made safer or more idiot proof, be it the most modern, safely designed automobile, or the finest airliner made. That is not the question that the courts should be deciding. All safety standards could be higher, and in some cases should be higher, that is a matter be determined by research and study, and if appropriate to be incorporated into required safety standards. As long as those standards are not legaly required or considered the industry standard it is legaly ubsurd to pick a certain case and say that boat is defective even though it is just like every other boat ever made. Every safety imporovement made on any widely produced product is a balance between safety and the performance of the product, if prop guards are proven to be a practical addition to production boats, then they should be required, and any manufacturer that does not use them is building a defective product. Until then every boat built without a prop guard is by definition not “defective” as it performs in the maner that would be reasonably expected by the operator.

    • While I agree with your opening statements (most products could be safer and courts should not be engaged in forcing them to pickup every small improvement) your standards comments can be skewed in certain industry situations like this one.

      Industry standards are often the lowest bar the industry can get everybody to agree to that they think will prevent the government from directly regulating them. They often set the bar just high enough to get the government to move on to some other problem somewhere else.

      The boating industry vehemently resists the use of propeller guards and other propeller safety devices because:
      1. If they did ever start to use them, it would be seen as an admission that open propellers are dangerous and that an alternative that the industry accepts exists. Thus people injured in the past would say why were you not using those devices when I was injured. I am going to sue you.
      2. Nobody wants to pay to retrofit propeller safety devices onto millions of existing boats in the field. If the industry starts using propeller safety devices now and does not retrofit them on boats they sold last year, the year before, etc they are exposing themselves again.

      Therefore the industry is in a full court press to suppress new and existing propeller safety technologies at every opportunity.

      One way they do this is by presenting a unified front and keeping all the troops marching in step. As a result nobody making propeller safety devices can sell them directly to boat or drive companies. Entrepreneurs are forced to sell to end users where transaction costs are much higher (must try to convert the individual boater into recognizing they need one, sell, ship, and invoice them on piece at a time, etc.). All the while the industry is telling everybody how bad these devices are and they will void the warranty on their drives if you use one.

      Newcomers to the market think they have great devices, but the industry just beats them down relentlessly. Look at Robert Hooper and his Prop Buddy guard. Bob stuck it out for approaching a couple decades. He had countless thrilled customers including commercial divers, state fish and game departments, the U.S. Government, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Navy, NASA, military bases, and some very high tech mine sweeping RIBS, but the industry just kept beating him down. He finally passed away in 2010 at the age of 83.

      The reception of the Australian Environmental Safety Propeller is another example. They won a major televised Australian Invention of the Year contest there, but when shown at a USCG propeller safety mitigation meeting, the industry blasted them just like they blast every other propeller safety device.

      We are not saying prop guards should be on all boats, there are many other propeller safety devices and programs (boating safety classes, addressing drunk boating, encouraging operators to wear kill switches, etc) that should be employed as appropriate.

      Yet the Coast Guard is currently discussing a proposed regulation to make it mandatory for recreational boats to have emergency engine kill switches. That should have been done long, long ago. The industry actually opposed their use in the past.

      In terms of boating safety classes, the industry never wants to raise the bar. They don’t want to place any restrictions in front of potential boaters.

      Its hard for entrepreneurs to prove that their prop guard is a safe edition to their targeted boat population when the industry hits them with a smear campaign about the evils of propeller guards and other propeller safety devices.

      So industry standards are not always a good measure.

  14. Wow, a verdict that makes sense!

    There are plenty of safety devices available in the marketplace should a consumer want them. I don’t need the government protecting me. It’s so obvious how groups try to leverage regulation to push a product and make money. … edited out minor personal attack on another reader …..

    • Mike: Would you please list all of the so called safety devices you mention that will protect a person from propellar strikes. I’m sure there is alot of people out there who have been injured by props would like to know what they could have bought to have prevented the injury.

      • Bob,

        Just check out the link at the top of this website, they’ve done the work for me.

        There are even wireless devices that will stop your boat should you or the crew fall overboard (won’t help with the propeller):

        There’s also that kill switch that comes on many boats and can be retrofitted to any vessel. Of course 99% of the people I see don’t use it. (No help here for props either)

        Life jackets save lives too, but most adult recreational boaters don’t wear them.

        You could always buy a jet boat if propellers concern you….no device needed. The safest option is to sit home and look out your window as the world goes by, but even that carries some risk.

        Seems like plenty of options out there for me, no regulations required.

        I prefer to make my own decisions regarding risk and safety, I certainly don’t need someone to tell me.

  15. The problem that continues to arise is that the recreational boater does not know that some of these devices exist. When you go to the boat shop and buy your boat no one there says hey if you want to protect your kids or family a little more look at these cool devices. There is minimal information available to the average person on the topic.

    Mike I think a lot of people do not want more government regulations….however what would the auto industry be like if you could opt out of seat belts, air bags etc. Safety devices are in place to protect people who may not be in control of that particular situation at that time. A child for example. You may prefer to make your own safety decisions but a five year old in your boat does not have that option..he or she would be at your mercy. So you opt out of a safety device and then a child dies or looses a that fair?

Leave a Reply