Fri 8th Sep | 2023

Clark Fountain’s Landmark Case, Batchelder v. Malibu Boats, LLC, Catalyzes Industry-Wide Reforms in Boat Manufacturing and Safety Protocols

Accidents Appellate Litigation In the News Personal Injury Product liability Wrongful Death BY

Palm Beach Gardens, FL – September 8, 2023 – Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Littky-Rubin & Whitman, a prestigious plaintiff personal injury firm headquartered in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, proudly announces that its monumental legal victory has redefined safety standards in the boating industry. The case was spearheaded by founding partner Donald R. Fountain, Jr., who has an illustrious career marked by securing over $1 billion for his clients in his 35 years as a Florida personal injury attorney.

The Case

The Batchelder v. Malibu Boats, LLC case centered around the tragic loss of 7-year-old Ryan Paul Batchelder who was swept out of the designated bow seat of a Malibu Response LX ski boat during a 5 mph bow swamping incident. The incident resulted in Ryan’s fatal entanglement with the boat’s unguarded propeller.

The Verdict and Its Ripple Effect

The jury found both Malibu Boats, LLC, and Malibu Boats West, Inc., negligent for not providing sufficient warnings about the bow swamping hazard and awarded $200 million. The Batchelder family was awarded $80 million for Ryan’s pain and suffering and an additional $120 million in punitive damages. This landmark verdict is not only the largest in Rabun County history but also the largest single verdict for pain and suffering associated with wrongful death in Georgia’s history.

“Bow Seating Hazard” – Malibu Warns No One Should Ride in the Bow 

In July 2023, Malibu issued a truly remarkable admission of defect. Malibu CEO Jack Springer undertook a new worldwide safety warning campaign by issuing a sweeping warning and safety advisory directly as a result of the death of Ryan Batchelder. This Safety Alert highlights the Bow Swamping Hazard in ten separate models of Malibu boats manufactured over a 25-year period (from 1986 – 2011) and sold worldwide.

Malibu now specifically prohibits passengers from riding in the bow seats while the boat is in motion and has undertaken a campaign to communicate this safety hazard and provide new warning labels to all boat owners.

Click to Read the full Bow Seating Hazard Safety Alert

Unheard of Industry Action

Clark Fountain has always known that the defect litigation we have pursued for 35 years advances product design and promotes consumer safety. However, industry leaders usually make major safety changes in secret, without any admission of a problem or fault in a given incident. It is tremendously rare that a manufacturer acknowledges the validity of a victim’s defect claims and goes so far as to provide such clear confirmation that our law firm’s efforts have caused them to act.

There is no doubt that Malibu’s admissions, the jury’s verdict, and the settlement of this single case will bring about positive and powerful change in the industry. This case highlights the impact that those serving on America’s juries have on improving the safety of products in our nation.

Donald R. Fountain, Jr.’s Pivotal Role

Donald R. Fountain, Jr., a board-certified civil trial lawyer, led the case to its groundbreaking conclusion. With 35 years of experience and more than $1 billion secured for his clients as a Florida personal injury attorney, Mr. Fountain’s expertise was instrumental in achieving this transformative verdict.

Malibu Boats’ Policy Changes

Following the Batchelder v. Malibu Boats, LLC case, Malibu Boats is committed to enhancing consumer safety through the following measures:

  • Updated Capacity Labels and Warning Stickers: To better inform consumers, Malibu Boats will prominently display updated capacity labels and warning stickers on all new and existing models.
  • Guidelines on Avoiding Bow Swamping: Malibu Boats will issue guidelines focusing on how to prevent bow swamping. These guidelines will address proper weight distribution, operating in suitable water and weather conditions, and safe boat operation.

Malibu Boat Models Affected in Safety Alert:

  • 1986–2002 Sunsetter
  • 1989–1994 Euro-f3 Sunsetter
  • 1990–1993 Mystere 215LX Euro-f3
  • 1993–1998 Echelon LX
  • 1995–2014 Response LX
  • 1998–2003 Sportster LX
  • 1999–2006 Sunsetter LXi
  • 2002–2007 Sunsetter (23) XTi
  • 2003–2008 Sunsetter 21 XTi
  • 2003–2011 Response LXi

These initiatives aim to equip consumers with the essential information and guidelines needed for a safer boating experience.

“The Batchelder case serves as a watershed moment not just for our firm, but for the entire boating industry. The settlement sends a resounding message that manufacturers must prioritize safety over profits. We hope this case serves as a catalyst for meaningful change, ensuring that no family has to endure the pain the Batchelder’s have suffered. It’s not just about winning in the courtroom; it’s about making lasting changes that protect consumers for generations to come,” stated Fountain.

About Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Littky-Rubin & Whitman

Based in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Littky-Rubin & Whitman stands as a formidable force in the legal arena. We are unafraid to take on complex cases against the nation’s largest insurance companies and product manufacturers. With a collective legal experience of over 200 years and more than $1 billion recovered for injury victims, our team is committed to fearless, aggressive representation. Our dedication extends beyond the courtroom; we aim to drive positive change in various industries, as evidenced by our influence in product recalls and the establishment of new safety standards.