Barhanovich case: Archer & Bean blame Suzuki & Bob’s Machine Shop
The case originated with C.F. Bean and Bean Meridian filing a Jones Act suit in Mississippi Southern District Court. Bean was attempting to limit any potential liability in the death of Mark Barhanovich to the value of their barge and its contents. Mr. Barhanovich of Biloxi Mississippi was killed on 16 September 2012 when the outboard motor on his center console boat allegedly struck a dredge pipe operated by Bean and Archer off Deer Island Mississippi, the outboard motor flipped into the boat, and fatally struck him.
A few days after Bean filed the Jones Act suit, Mr. Barhanovich’s widow, Jerri P. Barhanovich filed against Bean and Archer Western Contractors in the same court. The two cases have since been rolled together under the original Jones Act suit.
On 3 February 2014, Bean and Archer filed a Third Party Complaint wanting to bring Suzuki Motor Corporation (manufacturer of the outboard motor) and Bob’s Machine Shop (manufacturer of the jack plate used between the outboard motor and the boat).
Bean and Archer explain why they think the court has jurisdiction over both Suzuki and Bob’s Machine Shop.
Suzuki is a Japanese company authorized to do business in Mississippi. They are the designer, manufacturer, seller, and/or distributor of products which are sold or delivered within the state of Mississippi. Suzuki (Japan) knew or should have known their products would have entered the stream of commerce within the state of Mississippi.
Similarly, Suzuki Corporation of America, headquartered in California was authorized to do business in Mississippi. They were the designer, manufacturer, seller, and/or distributor of products which are sold or delivered within the state of Mississippi. Suzuki (America) knew or should have known their products would have entered the stream of commerce within the state of Mississippi.
Bob’s Machine Shop of Florida was authorized to do business in Mississippi. They were the designer, manufacturer, seller, and/or distributor of products which are sold or delivered within the state of Mississippi. Bob’s Machine Shop knew or should have known their products would have entered the stream of commerce within the state of Mississippi.
The Suzuki outboard motor was a 225 horsepower, 4-stroke, Model DF225.
The Jack plate was a “Flats Jac” jack plate from Bob’s Machine Shop.
Archer and Bean say:
“The lower unit or other component of the Suzuki motor is believed to have struck the water bottom and/or some unknown stationary object, which caused the Suzuki motor to break from its mounting brackets and be propelled upward and forward and into the passenger compartment of the Barhanovich vessel, striking Mark Barhanovich and causing him to sustain traumatic and fatal injuries.”
We noticed they did not mention he was thought to have struck their dredge pipe.
Bean and Archer go on to say,
“The injuries and death of Mark Barhanovich, and all damages and/or losses resulting therefrom, occurred as the result of the mounting brackets or other components of the afore-described Suzuki outboard motor failing when the said motor came into contact with the water bottom and/or some unknown submerged object.”
Bean and Archer say Suzuki (Japan), Suzuki (America), and Bob’s Machine Shop knew or should have known of the unreasonable risk of an accident like this one when their products were used in the manner for which they were intended and/or under circumstances close to these.
Bean and Archer say Suzuki (Japan), Suzuki (America), and Bob’s Machine Shop failed to design their products to protect against the motor breaking loose and flipping into the boat. According to Bean and Archer, they also failed to adequately instruct and/or warn of this hazard.
Bean and Archer go on to say the new three parties are liable to Bean and Archer for all losses, damages, and/or liabilities which have been or may be incurred surrounding this accident. Basically its all Suzuki’s and Bob’s Machine Shop’s fault, per Bean and Archer.
Bean and Archer go on to ask the court to instate the two Suzuki’s plus Bob’s Machine Shop as direct defendants in the case.
At the moment, the court is awaiting a response from Mr. Barhanovich’s widow (and her lawyers) as to her opinion about allowing Archer and Bean to bring Suzuki and Bob’s Machine Shop into the case. Her comments were due by 27 February. On February 26th, she filed an unopposed request for another week to study the situation, saying she would respond by March 6, 2014. We suspect the court will honor the request.
Its pretty easy to envision that if the court instates Suzuki and Bob’s Machine Shop as direct defendants, Bean and Archer will ask to be released from the case. Its also pretty easy to envision if the new defendants are added, Bean and Archer will probably not be released from the case, but Bean and Archer will probably be able to offload a portion of any potential liability onto one of more of the new players.
Bean and Archer’s request states the “mounting bracket failed”. That leaves us to speculate as to exactly what broke and where it broke. Several larger outboards flipping into boats after striking submerged objects have failed at the swivel bracket, not at the mounting brackets (clamp brackets). Some break the slide free from the jack plate. Others break the clamp brackets.
Bob’s Machine Shop had some problems back in 2006 when outboards were quickly getting larger and heavier. Bob’s announced some design changes and a retrofit kit to add a slide stop (prevent the slide the outboard is mounted to from sliding out the top).
Our 20 March 2013 post on Bean filing the Jones Act suit included this comment by us:
“We anticipate Barhanovich claimants may also include the recreational boat manufacturer and the marine drive manufacturer in the list of defendants in this or a similar trial claiming the drive should not have flown up into the boat causing Mark Barhanovich’s fatal injuries. Or, C.F. Bean, Bean Meridian, or their insurance companies may drag the boat and drive manufacturers into court with them in an attempt to offload some of their potential liability to other potentially liable parties.”
We are certainly not surprised to see Bean and Archer try to bring Suzuki into the mix. We are a bit surprised a them bring in the jack plate manufacturer instead of the boat builder, unless the jack plate failed in some way. The boat has only been described as a center console boat. It may have been built in Mississippi. Bean and Archer may have felt that suing a local boat builder may not be good for their already struggling image.
We have still heard nothing of:
- An inspection of the dredge pipe to identify possible strike points by this and other vessels.
- An inspection of the outboard motor to determine what it struck. Sometimes the object struck can be identified from debris in the speedometer pickup (small hole on leading edge of the drive near the torpedo to measure pressure which is converted to speed). Debris may also found in the water intakes, or on the surface of the drive and/or edge of the propeller, or in the victim’s wounds.
- Any attempts to read the “black box” / data recorder on the outboard to make some guesses at boat speeds based on recorded engine RPM near the time of the accident.
- The specific satellite images we identified earlier that should show the status of any buoys or other markers on the dredge pipe.
It will be interesting to see how Mr. Barhanovich’s wife responds to Bean and Archer wanting to bring the two Suzuki’s and Bob’s Machine Shop into the mix. He case started out just trying to prove he hit the dredge pipe and it was Bean and Archers fault.
For her lawyers to gear up for a more traditional outboard motor struck submerged object and flipped into the boat case would take a lot more effort. But it might enlarge the potential take, especially if Bean and Archer are granted Jones Act status.
- Mark Barhanovich Boat Propeller Accident at Deer Island Near Biloxi, MS: Dredge Pipe Strike?”.
- Mark Barhanovich: CF Bean Limitation of Liability Case Update 9 May 2013
- Jones Act Suit by C.F. Bean
- Outboard Motor Struck Submerged Object and Flipped Into Boat: Exemplar Outboard Boat Accidents
- Boat or Boat Motor Struck Submerged Dredge Pipe: Exemplar Boat Accidents
- Preventing Outboard Motors From Flipping into Boats
- Preventing & Mitigating Injuries and Fatalities from Outoboard Motors Flipping into Boats
- Estate of David Paul McFarlin and Jamie Laass vs. Brunswick Corporation (young boy killed when outboard struck dredge pipe, flipped into boat, and he was struck by the propeller).
- Our previous coverage identified specific satellite images of the barge / dredging operation