Jet Ski Injury Case Focuses on Adequacy of Warnings

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By Bruce Kaufman

Aug. 1 — Would a jet ski passenger have escaped serious injury if a graphical warning had been placed on the passenger seat of a Yamaha VXS WaveRunner instead of on the body of the watercraft? ( Hickerson v. Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A., 2016 BL 246167, D.S.C., No. 8:13-cv-02311, 7/29/16 ).

Mechanical engineer Anand Kasbekar thinks so, and sought to testify in a trial set for September that alternative warnings would have averted plaintiff Deborah Hickerson's horrific injuries after she was thrown off the craft and landed in the path of a high-pressure water jet thrust.

But Judge J. Michelle Childs of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina disagreed, and rejected the proposed expert testimony in a suit against manufacturer Yamaha Motor Corp.

Not only has Kasbekar “not tested his proposed alternative warning system, but also he provides no specific relevant research or studies—in neither his deposition testimony or his report—on which he relies to inform his proposed warnings system or his opinion that the [existing] warnings are ‘inadequate and insufficient,'” the court said.

Although Kasbekar has testified as an expert more than 150 times, his experience and knowledge don't overcome deficiencies in his testimony, the court said.

The expert was allowed to testify, however that a sculpted seat (as opposed to the standard seat) and a seat strap would have mitigated the plaintiff's injuries.

Hickerson was one of four riders aboard the 3-person jet ski at the time of the 2012 accident. She suffered severe and permanent orifice injuries, and required insertion of a colostomy bag.

Covington Patrick Hagins Stern and Lewis represents the plaintiffs.

Thompson Coburn represents Yamaha and related companies.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Kaufman in Washington at bkaufman@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at spatrick@bna.com and Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bna.com

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