William E. Coxe III vs. Yamaha Motor Corporation USA and Maverick Boat Company Propeller Case Settled

William E. Coxe III was boating in Beaufort County, South Carolina, with a companion on January 31, 2009 in his 18 foot Hewes Redfisher built by Maverick Boat Company.

As they returned to the CC Haigh Jr. Boat Landing, Mr. Coxe dropped off his companion to go get his truck and boat trailer. Mr. Coxe kept his boat in position in the river by idling in forward against the current. As Mr. Coxe was preparing to haul his boat from the water, he slipped, fell into the throttle, the boat accelerated forward, and Mr. Coxe was ejected from the vessel. The boat began to circle, being weighed down by his clothing and concerned about the cold water, Mr. Coxe tried to swim to shore. The Yamaha outboard propeller struck him multiple times. He received massive facial lacerations that removed much of his nose and almost severed his jaw.

Prior to the filing of the complaint, Mr. Coxe had incurred medical bills in excess of $500,000.

The case was set in the U.S. District Court for the State of South Carolina Beaufort Division in Admiralty.

With the accident originating in navigable waters, the case was set to be tried in Admiralty law.

Plaintiff notes that consumers may be generally aware of the dangers of rotating propellers, consumers are unaware of of safer designs because the industry has thwarted those efforts. Plaintiff says consumers are also unaware of the propensity of boats such as this one to circle when they are underway and become unmanned (those on board are ejected or fall overboard).

Plaintiff’s cause of action included product liability, negligence, gross negligence, and crashworthiness. Since the defendant knew of these dangers and failed to develop or implement known alternative designs, the plaintiff also sought punitive damages.

Maverick boat said any dangers were open and obvious, the boat underwent substantial change after sale, the Plaintiff failed to properly use the boat, abused the boat, and subjected the boat to abnormal use the time of the accident.

Yamaha said the outboard complied with state and federal standards when it was delivered and was not defective.

Yamaha says the use of the outboard (holding the boat in position in the river) was not proper and not in accordance with prescribed procedures for safe use.

The case was settled per a court order for dismissal dated September 6, 2012.

David B. Marvel of Prenner Marvel P.A. in Charleston, South Carolina represented the injured party.

Robert H. Brunson and Erin Richardson Stuckey of Nelson Mullins Riley and Scarborough (Cola), and Frank D. Hosley of Seipp & Flick represented Yamaha.

David Michael Collins of Buist Moore Smythe & McGee, and Mark R. Houck and Raul J. Chacon, Jr of Houck Anderson represented Maverick Boat Company.

Interestingly, this is the fourth propeller case to settle this summer.

Settling these four cases and last summer’s Bell vs. MasterCraft Boat Company Trial: Propeller Accident Victims Awarded $30 Million may have the industry rethinking its strategy.

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