Florida Marine Engine Failure Attorneys

Marine engine and propulsion system component failures can cause extremely costly damages.  The loss of a propulsion system can leave a vessel stranded dead in the water, lead to a grounding of the vessel, indirectly cause collision damage or even cause environmental harm.  Additionally, failure of an engine may cause damage to other parts of the vessel on which they are installed.  A propulsion system failure could lead to serious bodily injury or death to passengers and crew, as in the case of a fire, and personal property damage of property aboard the vessel.  These issues arise in the complex context of federal Maritime law under the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal judiciary.

Federal maritime and state law recognize that manufacturers and retailers of marine propulsion packages are liable under products liability grounds, including strict liability, for personal injury and property damage caused by the breakdown of their product engine or one of its components.  While manufacturers can legally limit their liability to the direct purchasers of propulsion systems through warranties and other methods under contract, they may still remain liable to third parties under product liability standards.

Liability to the owner of the vessel by the manufacturer is almost always governed by the clauses and warranties included in the sales contract and are limited to the prescribed remedies.  The United States Supreme Court upheld the argument that these are the limits of recovery in such a “bargained for” agreement.  In East River Steamship Corp. v. Transamerica Delaval, Inc., (1986) the Court held that under U.S. maritime law, purchasers in privity of contract in the sales agreement cannot seek damages under product liability theories for damage stemming from a turbine power plant that failed and damaged itself.  Neither, the Court held, could the purchaser seek consequential economic damages under this theory.  “Damage to a product itself is most naturally understood as a warranty claim.  Such damage means simply that the product has not met the customer’s expectations, or, in other words, that the customer has received ‘insufficient product value.’”

The contract between the engine purchaser and engine manufacturer does not, however, include third parties.  They have not contracted for the bargained for protections and benefits that the buyer and seller have.  As such, third parties injured by a defective or dangerous condition have brought successful suits to recover under products liability grounds.

Liability will be imposed if a third party claimant can establish: (1) that the defendant sold or manufactured the product; (2) that the product was “unreasonably dangerous” or was in a defective condition when it left the manufacturer’s control; and (3) that the defect or dangerous condition resulted in harm to the claimant.  A product is “unreasonably dangerous” if it was defectively designed or if there were greater risks in using the product than a reasonable buyer would have expected.  The failure to provide adequate warnings also falls under strict liability.  This requires warning a consumer of defects once the product is being sold and is in the commercial marketplace.  A warning will be considered adequate if it alerts users, including all persons lawfully aboard a vessel, to “foreseeable” harms and allows the users to avoid the harm.

Call a Podurst Orseck products liability specialist to establish the merits of your claim.