Appellate Court Rules Against Sea-Doo Personal Watercraft Manufacturer in $2 Million Wrongful Death

January 23, 2009

Document: Appellate Court Ruling Against Personal Watercraft Manufacturer

On May 25, 2007, following a two-week wrongful death trial, a 12-member Rockford, Illinois, jury returned a record-setting $2 million verdict in favor of the parents and sister of a 9-year-old girl whose wrongful death was caused in a collision with a 1994 Bombardier Sea-Doo personal watercraft. During the trial, attorneys at Rapoport Law Offices, P.C., who represented the estate of the child who was killed, proved to the jury's satisfaction that both the operator and the manufacturer of the Sea-Doo were at fault. The jury found the operator was 95 percent at fault and assigned the other 5 percent of blame to Bombardier.

Despite the jury's finding in their favor and against Bombardier, the plaintiffs appealed, arguing the trial judge had made a number of erroneous evidentiary rulings in favor of Bombardier. The plaintiffs argued that if the judge had ruled correctly, the jury probably would have assigned much more than 5 percent of the blame to Bombardier.

On January 23, 2009, the Appellate Court of Illinois, Second District, issued a decisive ruling agreeing with the plaintiffs, and ordering a new trial on the issue of allocation of fault only. At the new trial, the jury will be instructed that Bombardier and the operator of the personal watercraft are 100 percent at fault for the collision, and its only job is to determine what percentage of the blame should be assigned to each. When making this determination, the jury will not be shown much of the evidence that Bombardier was erroneously allowed to present during the first trial. The $2 million damages award, which is the highest child wrongful death verdict ever in Winnebago County according to records maintained by the Illinois Jury Verdict Reporter, remains valid and will not be retried. In order for Bombardier to be jointly liable for the entire award, the jury must find Bombardier responsible for 25 percent or more of the blame for the collision.

Rapoport Law Offices, P.C., is a personal injury law firm based in Chicago, Illinois. The personal injury attorneys at Rapoport Law Offices, P.C., have achieved multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements for individuals with lawsuits arising from medical malpractice, product liability, semitruck and motor vehicle accidents, workplace injuries and construction accidents in Illinois and Wisconsin. Rapoport Law Offices, P.C.'s premier aviation negligence lawyers represent victims of commercial and general aviation disasters nationwide.

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