Laass vs. Storm Lake, et al. (Mercury Marine and Lund Company) Settled

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.

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