On July 17, 2014, seven-year-old Ryan Paul Batchelder lost his life in a horrific boating accident that was completely preventable.
Ryan sustained fatal injuries after being washed out of the “Playpen” seat of the Malibu Response boat, and dragged under the boat into the propeller, where he became entangled in the propeller rudder and driveshaft and died from drowning and massive blood loss.
As it turns out, Malibu had converted its “closed bow” model to an “open bow” by crudely cutting a simple hole in the front of a boat with a saw and dropping a seat into it.
Malibu did no testing or engineering to determine if the design would safely accommodate the extra weight Malibu invited at the front of the boat. As its marketing materials showed, the “play pen” seat was designed to hold children. They just made it ‘Family Friendly’, to be much more profitable for them.
In 2011, three years before this tragic preventable accident, the folks at Malibu started to post a 62-cent warning label in the bow of its new Response LX boats about the weight limit, because informal experience with employees and others driving those boats revealed that water would often come over the bow and create a risk of swamping.
But Malibu only posted warnings in their new boats and failed to warn owners of its used boats. despite its extensive dealer network to be able to do so.
In this new Insider Exclusive “Justice in America” Network TV Special, “Justice in America – Ryan Batchelder’s Story”, our news team is on location in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida with Don Fountain & Julie Littky-Rubin, partners at “Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Littky-Rubin & Whitman”.
And Drew Ashby & Max Thelen, Ptrs at Ashby Thelen, as well as Ryan’s parents, Meg Batchelder and Stephan Batchelder, to discuss their major $200 Million verdict, that sent an unmistaken and resounding message to the boating industry; To put a company’s Customers’ safety ahead of their own profit.
Malibu Boats bills itself as “the world’s largest manufacturer of watersports towboats, owning over one-third of the worldwide market share.” Founded in 1982, it was acquired by the private capital fund, Black Canyon Capital, which later took the company public in an IPO.
It describes its forward-thinking approach to boat design, but the reality was, despite its outsized footprint in the world of towboats, Malibu’s design safety features took a back seat to Profit and Consumer Safety.
But the failure to hold safety paramount in the redesign of Malibu’s Bowrider LX wasn’t the first time the boating industry had failed to consider consumer safety, especially with weight distribution, boat design and subsequent legal consequences.
They and every other boat manufacturer including Malibu’s chief competitor, MasterCraft Boat Co, had been put on notice, in 2006, when MasterCraft was found liable in a $30.5 million jury award in Butte County, Calif, for serious traumatic head injuries Niki Bell suffered in a 2006 boating accident in their defectively designed boat.
The sad fact is in America today, that unlike passenger and commercial vehicles and aircraft, boats are manufactured under few regulations and are not subject to compliance tests to meet a particular dynamic performance standard.
The U.S. Coast Guard is the federal agency that promulgates boating regulations, which include standards related to ignition, fuel and electrical systems, navigational lights and safe powering.
Contrary to the popular narrative, Americans do not live in a world of over-regulated products. There are thousands of consumer products manufactured without regard to engineering design principles or safety standards, and without testing or meaningful government oversight. And, once in the marketplace, some of those products do great harm, and they did in this tragic case.
But, as these cases against Mastercraft andMalibu demonstrate, litigation plays an important role in pushing industry to improve.
You can contact, Don Fountain, and Julie Littky-Rubin, Ptrs @ “Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Littky-Rubin & Whitman”@ https://www.clarkfountain.com/ and Andrew “Drew” Ashby and Max Thelen, Ptrs Ashby Thelen Lowry https://www.atllaw.com/