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Can We Sue a Boat Manufacturer for Defective Equipment That Resulted in the Death of a Family Member in Maryland?

Yes, but there are numerous factors to consider prior to filing such a wrongful death lawsuit. While the majority of boating accidents take place as a result of another person’s negligence, there can be instances where a poorly designed or defective part on a marine vessel malfunctions and by doing so leads to the death of an innocent victim. Here in Maryland, if an injury or death can be linked to the mechanical or electrical failure of a watercraft’s engine, sterndrive or outboard motor, this could be grounds for what is referred to as a Products Liability lawsuit. Such claims may be lodged against the maker of the powerboat itself, the manufacturer of the specific component, assembly or part in question, and sometimes even the company or dealer that sold the vessel.

This area of the law seeks to hold manufacturers accountable for dangerously defective products and devices. Maryland’s products liability statutes are designed to encourage businesses to be proactive and take the necessary precautions to avoid injury or death to consumers of their products. In cases where someone is seriously hurt or killed as a result of a product’s failure to work properly, the law allows victims to hold the maker of that product financially responsible.

There are three potential avenues of monetary recovery that the injured party may pursue in a products liability case against a boat or component manufacturer:

  1. The victim may file a lawsuit against the company(s) for negligence, which will require the plaintiff to demonstrate how the defendant failed to design or manufacture its product in “the same way that a reasonably prudent manufacturer would have done.” The law states that corporations are required to exercise “reasonable measures” when designing, manufacturing and inspecting their products before making them available to the public for purchase. Furthermore, for intrinsically dangerous products, such as marine outboard motors and sterndrives, the law requires manufacturers to include reasonable warnings with these products that describe the potential dangers they may pose to users of these machines. As a matter of fact, the failure of a company to properly warn a consumer about any potential danger can itself serve as the basis for seeking financial compensation following a personal injury or wrongful death accident.
  2. A second avenue for monetary recovery provided by Maryland law is referred to as Breach of Warranty and arises from contract law. In such instances, whenever a product is purchased from a company, there will likely be certain express, written or implied warranties that testify to the product’s quality, safety and suitability for a particular application. If a product proves to be unsafe, any related warranties may likely have been breached and, therefore, the injured party has the legal right under Maryland law to file a lawsuit for breach of contract.
  3. The third avenue for financial recovery in products liability cases is known as Strict Liability. Legal actions taken in these types of cases are based on a form of tort law that requires plaintiffs to show the court that the product or device was defective. Unlike lawsuits involving negligence, the victim need not demonstrate that the seller acted carelessly, but must instead prove that:
    • The product was defective when it left the factory or the selling agent/dealer’s control;
    • The product was unreasonably dangerous;
    • The product’s defect or faulty design caused the plaintiff’s injuries; AND
    • There was no substantial change in the product’s condition prior to it reaching the consumer

A personal injury victim who seeks recovery in a Maryland products liability case is not limited to only one of these potential avenues and is allowed by law to file a claim based on multiple and/or independent legal theories pertaining to products liability. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, our attorneys have the legal training to assist victims and their families. We understand that the operation of marine watercraft does have its risks, but those risks need not include potential injury from a defective part or component.

Here in Maryland, victims of faulty watercraft design are allowed under the law to seek compensation for damages due to faulty products. Our skilled personal injury lawyers are ready and willing to help injured consumers develop a legal strategy and provide evidence to the court demonstrating damages suffered as a result of products liability.

The types of damages available to plaintiffs can include medical expenses and doctor’s fees, the cost of physical therapy, lost income capacity, lost wages due to hospitalization or physical injury, as well as pain and suffering. If you or someone you love has been seriously injured due to the failure of a part or component on a Maryland watercraft, our attorneys can help.

With more than 20 years of experience representing injured consumers, Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, is prepared to vigorously fight for your rights under the laws of Maryland. Please feel free to contact our law offices to set up a free, no-obligation consultation.

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