The boating industry still actively refuses to evaluate, develop, or deploy propeller safety devices on recreational boats. What has to come to pass before the boating industry gets involved in propeller safety?
Note – This article was written before the Sprietsma case was overturned in the U.S. Supreme Court.
We explore this topic after the Sprietsma decision on our Propeller Guard Inventor Assistance page
Currently no driving forces are pushing the industry from its status quo. Perhaps government regulations will be the force as it was with emissions?
Many people with rare diseases wait and pray for a celebrity or major public figure to contract the disease and become a “poster boy” for it like Christopher Reeves did for spinal injuries. If a well known person or their child was injured by a propeller and their family took up the cause and led the crusade, this field might change as well. Anyone who thinks otherwise might want to recall what Sarah Brady did for Gun Control. The Brady Campaign web site recounts several of their accomplishments.
We suspect that in recent years, the industry has spent far more time and money in defending the absence of propeller guards / prop guards in the court system, than in trying to solve the problem. Manufacturers have been hiding behind Federal Preemption (Federal Law does not require them, state law cannot contradict federal law, thus those injured cannot successfully sue manufacturers in a state court for the absence of propeller guards because they were not required by federal law) per the Federal Boating Safety Act of 1971.
Federal Preemption provides incentive to prevent development in this area. Manufacturers are afraid to bring forth new propeller guard designs / prop guard designs as they may then be required by the federal government, thus loosing the preemption and their automatic court protection. As it stands right now, they have no reason to work on propeller guards / prop guards and an incentive not to. If they develop a successful design and it is later required by federal law, they could then be sued when someone is injured by it. Plus they might be sued by owners of older products for not calling and retrofitting them or for not bringing out the new design earlier.
A loss in Sprietsma v. Mercury Marine (deciding on preemption) now before the U.S. Supreme Court would certainly change the level of attention this issue receives by the industry.