Black v. Brunswick Corp., 11 CM-CC00223 (Nov. 18, 2014)

In July 2010, plaintiff Donald W. Black was severely injured by an explosion after fueling his boat. Evidence in the case showed the fuel line separated at a key connection between a 3- to 4-inch metal piece, where the vendor’s gasoline pump nozzle is inserted, and a rubber hose through which fuel flows into the boat’s interior gas tank. The hose had worked its way loose from the metal piece.

Donald Black had pumped about 19 gallons of fuel, which leaked into other parts of the hull and around the cockpit. When he turned on the pump, the gas exploded into a fire. Black suffered significant burns and was hospitalized for several months. During that time his heart stopped six times, he required skin grafts, reconstructive surgery and has ongoing health risks from his injuries. He amassed $1.3 million in medical bills.

Black filed a lawsuit against the boat manufacturer as well as the owner of the marina, Leisure Hotels, LLC., for negligence. While Black was filling his tank, there was no attendant on duty at the marina. The gas dock also used a type of vapor recovery nozzle that may have made contributed to the fuel hose separation. The defendants alleged that the fire was the result of a leak in a fuel line at the marina, claiming that the fire started on the water and then spread to the engine bay of the boat, causing it to explode.

The plaintiff settled with third-party defendants prior to the trial for $500,000. After nearly three weeks of trial, the court found that the boat was negligently designed and awarded Donald Black $15 million in compensatory damages. No fault for the explosion was assessed to Black, and Leisure Hotels LLC was not found liable.

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