$1,200,000: Woman Nearly Amputates Leg While Waterskiing

CASE DESCRIPTION: The husband was driving the boat and pulling his wife along. She entagled her right leg in the training bridle and it was nearly severed. The husband and wife brought suit against the manufacturer and distributor premised on a design defect.

RESULT: $1,200,000.00 total settlement

Terrye S. suffered a near amputation of her right lower leg while water skiing on a single ski, deep water start and fall. Plaintiff was using the Casad “Right-up” ski bridle (single handle, closed deep “V” training bridle) designed with a cross-member below handle to protect hands. Casad Manufacturing Corporation designed, manufactured and sold the product to distributor Bart’s Waterski Center, Inc. who sold it to the plaintiff’s family. Casad had made design changes, adding a cross-member six months before the accident. The Casad bridle required a skier to put the ski in closed deep “V” to steady it. The design of the product entrapped her lower leg and nearly amputated it.

Casad settled with plaintiffs just prior to trial for the amount of its $1 million policy limits, plus another $100,000 for C.C.P. §998 interest which plaintiffs contend had become a part of the insurance policy.

Additionally, defendant Bart’s Waterski Center Inc. and Casad cross-complained against James S. for indemnity because he drove the boat.. James S. was insured by State Farm Fire and Casualty.  Therefore those insurance companies tendered defense of the cross-complaints to State Farm. State Farm then brought suit for Declaratory Relief against its insureds based on its household Resident Exclusion in the insurance policy. After Bench Trial resulted in favor of the insured (coverage found) the Insurance Company, realizing plaintiffs faced a difficult scenario to prove liability in the underlying case, immediately tendered its $100,000 policy limits to Terrye S. on behalf of insured James Strom.

As such, plaintiffs had recovered $1.2 million dollars prior to bringing the case to trial against the sole remaining defendant, the distributor.

The plaintiff’s contented that the design change and the addition of the cross-member to the product created an entanglement hazard. The bridle entangled her leg and the pull of the boat nearly severed her lower leg. James S. claimed loss of consortium and Dillion v. Legg emotional distress.

The defense argued no design defect, assumption of risk and the plaintiff or her ski, must have been wrapped or entangled in the water prior to start. The injury was caused by the husband’s failure to stop the boat when he saw his wife entangled. Instead, husband turned boat, under power, after fall, dragging his entangled wife. The defense disputed the extent of damages claimed. The defense argued that the plaintiff was still able to walk and function in society, work at sedentary job, and perform all household services. In addition the plaintiff would be able to reenter the labor force if she desired, although she was a housewife at the time of the incident. Also the leg was not nearly amputated, but merely severely fractured.

TYPE OF CASE: Products Liability; Personal Injury; Declaratory Relief

INJURIES: Severe compound comminuted open fracture of the lower right leg (near amputation). Surgically repaired with muscle transfer, bone grafts, skin grafts. Residual drop foot, swelling, pain. Residual cosmetic deformity.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT: On 7/2/89 at 9:30a.m. on Lake Perris in Riverside County, California.

PLAINTIFF’S AGE: 35 at time of the incident.

OCCUPATION: Housewife

PLAINTIFFS’ ATTORNEYS:
Wylie A. Aitken & Richard A. Cohn
AITKEN * AITKEN * COHN
For Plaintiffs – Terrye & James S.
Note: Wylie Aitken & Richard Cohn acted as defense counsel for the Terrye & James S. in defense of the Declaratory Relief Action.

DEFENDANTS’ ATTORNEYS:
Peter B. Zell
STOCKDALE, PECKHAM & WERNER
For Defendant – Bart’s Waterski Center Inc.

David Koester
Bandy & Koester
For Defendant – Casad Manufacturing Corporation

Todd Castronovo
HILL, GENSEN, EVAN, CRANDALL & WADE
For State Farm Fire And Casualty In Declaratory Relief Action


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