Yamaha, Skeeter vs. Davis Propeller Accident Case

Michael Davis v. Skeeter Boats and Yamaha Propeller Guard Case settled 3 Sept. 2003

In October 2002, Michael Davis of Alexandria Virginia was thrown from a Skeeter Bass Boat into the Red River and struck by the propeller of the Yamaha drive.

We post a summary of the case below. Much of our material comes from these sources:

  • Yamaha, Skeeter to pay paraplegic $6 million. By Melanie Winters. Soundings Trade Only. Oct. 2003. Pgs. 28-29.
  • Yamaha agrees to settlement in boat-accident case. By Julia Robb. The Talk of the Town. September 6, 2003.

The prosecution appears to have focused attention on the possibility of the boat being overpowered and unsafe, while the absence of a propeller guard was a minor issue.

Yamaha and Skeeter (owned by Yamaha) settled the case Wednesday 3 Sept. 2003 for $6 million. Their defense attorney, David Frohn said it was an economic decision. The plaintiff originally requested $63 million. The 9th Judicial District of Louisiana (at Alexandria) judge called for the mediation conference after Yamaha/Skeeter’s defense.

Michael Davis’ attorneys, Chris Roy Sr. and John Bennett suggested the engine (200HP) was too large for the 20 foot boat. They said the transom wedges dig into the water, making the bow go down, creating sudden turns. An additional passenger was ejected with Michael Davis. Michael Davis was struck in the head and neck by the propeller and remains totally paralyzed. Various accounts differ on when and where he was struck. One report has him struck in the arm, another in the head and neck. One report has him struck “when the boat came back around”, another has him struck when he entered the water.

The settlement calls for Yamaha and Skeeter to each pay the plaintiff $3 million and $100,000 to cover court costs. Punitive damages were not allowed.

The boat dealer selling the boat, the driver at the time of the accident and the driver’s insurer were also named in the suit. The dealer agreed to pay $750,000 in damages and the driver’s insurance company agreed to pay $25,000 in damages and $10,000 in court costs.

Yamaha argued the boat was properly powered and tested for those horsepower ratings. Yamaha’s attorney, David Frohn, said damage to the boat and motor suggest it may have struck something, plus biomechanical evidence suggests Mr. Davis struck his head on the side of the boat creating the paralysis and was then struck by the propeller.

PGIC comment – The same issue of Soundings Trade Only reports Skeeter sold about 1,500 fiberglass boats over 14 feet in the first half of 2003. If you just double that for a year (for a quick, very rough estimate), you get 3,000 boats. Their $3,000,000 share of the bill amounts to a “tax” of about $1,000 per boat if they tried to pay it off on this year’s sales. If you figure in Yamaha’s share and parcel it out only on Skeeter boats, that ups the ante to $2,000 per boat. Either way, its a significant chunk of change.