William Jeanney, the plaintiff’s attorney, noted that approximately 45 people per year were dying from being struck by a boat propellers in 1978. He added that not only was Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC) aware of the propeller-related injury statistics, propeller guards were available and on the market for just this purpose.
Defense attorney responded that the propeller had functioned appropriately under the circumstances and that the danger could not be considered ‘unreasonable.’
“This is not a case where the propeller snapped off flew through the air and bopped somebody in the head or the propeller blew up and caught fire,” McNally said. “This is a propeller that is designed to push a speed boat through the water smoothly and efficiently.”
McNally added that “prop[eller] guards don’t work,” asking a rhetorical question to illustrate his point.
“Why don’t any of the boats have prop guards on them now? Is it because all boats defective and dangerous?” he asked. “Of course not. Boats don’t have prop guards on them because they don’t work, they’re dangerous, they’re not required … and in fact independent researchers have recommended that prop guards not be used.”
Both attorneys cited previous OMC development of potential propeller guard prototypes, all of which were terminated for various reasons, to support their arguments. McNally argued the termination of the projects indicated propeller guards do not function well while Jeanney argued that their existence belied the defense’s claim that such guards are unnecessary or ‘dangerous.’
Jeanney asked an engineer to develop a propeller guard that would have prevented Listman’s injury without hindering performance, which they claimed to have done in under 40 hours. “They had the knowledge, the resources, the ability, and the budget to do this,” Jeanney concluded. “It could have been done and it should have been done.”
McNally claimed that Kevin Listman’s use of a different OMC boat “50 times a year” shows that the boat in question — the boat that maimed Robin Listman — is not defective or dangerous.
“He still uses the boat, he uses it with the Listman children,” McNally said. “Mr. Listman does not think that his boat, another OMC boat, is dangerous or defective.”
Jeanney concluded by describing the consequences Listman suffers as a result of the loss of her limb, including issues with the prosthetic limb and medical bills totaling over $200,000.
McNally said in response that the plaintiff lawyers “want millions of dollars,” but that evidence would prove that the boat was not in fact dangerous or defective.
“She will go home with no money,” he added. “It seems a little bit harsh but if that’s what the law requires and what the evidence shows, that’s what you need to do.”