Wozniak v. Alexander

In Personal Injury and Maritime Law on (Updated )

The Plaintiff was seriously injured while tubing when her foot was nearly severed by the propeller of the towing boat operated by one Defendant. The operator admitted liability but alleged liability should be shared with the company from whom the boat was rented. The Court held, first, that a duty of care was owed by the rental company. In fact, this seems to not have been seriously contested. The Court then found that the rental company had breached this duty by not taking adequate steps to determine the experience level of those who would be operating the vessel and by not giving adequate instruction. In particular, none of the vessel’s occupants were instructed on towing procedures or how to “kill” the engine and when that should be done. With respect to causation, the Court recognized the “but for” test was the appropriate test and held that “but for” the inexperience of the operator and the lack of proper instruction, this accident would have been avoided. The Court then apportioned liability equally between the operator and boat rental company. The Court awarded: general damages for loss of pleasure and enjoyment of life at $120,000; cost of future care and housekeeping at $40,000; and loss of earning capacity at $50,000.