Prop Guard Case Ruling Opens Door

Wednesday, December 04, 2002
The Supreme Court decision in Sprietsma v. Mercury Marine may require boat manufacturers to satisfy different safety standards for recreational vessels and associated equipment in all 50 states, rather than the one set of federal safety standards they currently meet. In the Sprietsma case, Mrs. Sprietsma accidentally fell overboard after the boat in which she was riding turned, and was struck by the propeller, suffering fatal injuries. Mr. Sprietsma claimed that the Mercury Marine outboard motor was unreasonably dangerous because it did not include a propeller guard. The Coast Guard has concluded that, to date, the evidence is unclear regarding the possible benefits and inherent dangers of propeller guards, and has not mandated propeller guards on recreational boats.

In overturning the decisions of the Illinois Supreme Court and two lower courts, the Court ruled that the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971, which maintains consistent, national safety standards (as set by the US Coast Guard), does not preempt state tort law. "We're disappointed with the ruling," said Monita Fontaine, NMMA Vice President of Government Relations. "We believe there is clear and necessary federal preemption of boating safety regulations by the Coast Guard, as the lower courts found. I fear this may lead to a patchwork of inconsistent regulations in multiple jurisdictions, with safety standards being set by juries rather than safety experts."

"The Coast Guard is charged by Congress to set uniform standards that protect boaters," said Fontaine, "and boat manufacturers rely on those standards in their manufacturing processes. In this case, the Coast Guard set an implied standard by determining there was insufficient safety evidence to justify promulgating a regulation regarding propeller guards." The Court did not find Brunswick Corporation, parent company of the defendant, Mercury Marine, to be liable for the incident that led to this case; this ruling allows the case to move forward in the Illinois state court. The Court also did not comment on the appropriateness of propeller guards.

Maritime Reporter October 2014 Digital Edition
FREE Maritime Reporter Subscription
Latest Maritime News    rss feeds

Legal

Shipbuilding Regulations: Cents and Sensibility

Addressing the Jones Act is just one aspect of an increasingly complicated boatbuilding environment. Stovepiped, poorly conceived regulations is another. The sting of the recession is fading,

How Difficult is it to Obtain a Jones Act Waiver?

The American Salvage Association’s Jon Waldron provides the ultimate cabotage primer. There always seems to be constant chatter about waiving the Jones Act. In reality,

Will Congress Pass Any Maritime Legislation in 2014?

Following its usual summer break over August 2014, Congress came back from its five-week summer recess and spent a whopping eight days or so back in session before recessing once again,

LNG

Getting Real on LNG Fuel

Plentiful supply, low prices and strict regulations on air pollution are fuelling a swift move towards using LNG as fuel for ship propulsion in the USA and Canada.

Interferry Welcomes IMO Decision on LNG Fuel Tank Placement

Interferry has welcomed a decision at last week’s IMO Maritime Safety Committee meeting (MSC94) setting out rules for the location of fuel tanks on LNG-powered ships,

HHI to Build FSRU for Höegh LNG

A new Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU) will be built by the Korean shipbuilding Company Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI). This FSRU will be the fifth

 
 
Maritime Careers / Shipboard Positions Maritime Contracts Naval Architecture Navigation Offshore Oil Pipelines Ship Electronics Shipbuilding / Vessel Construction Sonar Winch
rss | archive | history | articles | privacy | terms and conditions | contributors | top maritime news | about us | copyright | maritime magazines
maritime security news | shipbuilding news | maritime industry | shipping news | maritime reporting | workboats news | ship design | maritime business

Time taken: 0.1597 sec (6 req/sec)