Defective boat railing entraps, severs boater’s finger

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Case in Point

May 8, 2012

Defective boat railing entraps, severs boater’s finger 

The plaintiffs alleged that the deck railing was defectively designed in that the area surrounding a gate in the railing was not properly shielded, permitting a dangerous gap to form when the gate was open. The parties settled before trial for $90,000. Platt v. Bentley Indus.

Beth Platt, 41, was a passenger on a Bentley 200 pontoon-style boat that was sailing on a lake when she decided to go for a swim. The deck railing contained a gate, which was open. As Platt jumped from the deck, the pinky finger on her right, dominant hand became caught between the railing and the open gate.

Platt suffered a traumatic amputation of most of her pinky finger, which could not be reattached. She also sustained a degloving injury to the remaining portion of the finger. Her hand is permanently disfigured, and she experiences severe pain in the remaining portion of her finger when it is bumped. The injury affects her ability to perform everyday activities such as making a bed. She also has some difficulty at her job as a nurse practitioner because she must perform patient examinations with a gloved hand that allows the pinky portion of the glove to flap around.

Her past medical expenses were paid by insurance.

Platt sued the Bentley Industries, LLC, the boat manufacturer, and Zerteck, Inc., the retailer, alleging that the deck railing was defectively designed in that the area surrounding the gate was not properly shielded, permitting a dangerous gap to form when the gate was open. Specifically, Platt contended that the railing was designed with rounded edges at the point where it met the gate, creating a v-shaped pinch point between the railing and gate. Although the manufacturer had installed a block in the pinch point to prevent finger entrapment when the gate was closed, the plaintiff asserted, the guard did not work when the gate was open.

The plaintiff did not claim future medical expenses or lost earnings.

After Bentley Industries defaulted, the plaintiff added its successor corporation, Encore Boat Builders, LLC, and the case proceeded against Encore and Zerteck.

Encore argued that it had not assumed Bentley’s liabilities.

The parties settled before trial for $90,000, including $85,000 from Zerteck’s insurer and $5,000 from Encore.

Citation: Platt v. Bentley Indus., LLC, No. 916/09 (N.Y., Greene Co. Sup. Feb. 13, 2012).

Plaintiff counsel: AAJ members Richard Greenblatt, Martin P. Rutberg, and Lawrence Breslow, all of Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Plaintiff expert: Arthur Faherty, boat design, Latham, N.Y.


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