A federal jury has ordered boat manufacturer Brunswick Corp. to pay $3.8 million to a man who lost part of his leg after it was caught in a propeller on Lake Austin.
Jurors determined Monday that Brunswick was partially liable for the 2007 injury to Jacob Brochtrup, who was 18 when he lost part of his leg while wake-boarding with friends celebrating July Fourth. The money is intended to cover Brochtrup's medical expenses and damages.
Brochtrup had jumped into the water to grab a tow line when the driver put the boat in reverse. The propeller caught the top of Brochtrup's right leg. According to his lawsuit, Brochtrup lost so much blood that he was clinically dead when he arrived at the hospital.
The lawsuit claimed Brunswick did not have safety devices, including guards and covers, to prevent Brochtrup from becoming tangled or stuck in the propeller.
Brunswick officials said in a statement that they are sympathetic to Brochtrup but "stand behind our products, which are used safely and properly by boaters around the world."
The company said it would consider whether to appeal.
Brochtrup's attorney, Robby Alden, said the verdict marks the first successful case against the boating industry by a person injured by a motor. A 2002 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court allowed such cases to go forward and boat makers had prevailed in two similar lawsuits involving older-model boats.
Alden said the concept for propeller guards and shields was developed years ago but has been resisted by the industry.
The jury found Brunswick 66 percent liable for the injury, with Brochtrup and the boat's driver responsible for the rest. Because the driver was not part of the lawsuit, he will not have to pay.
Most of the damages were for Brochtrup's past and future medical expenses. He also received $100,000 for his disfigurement and $264,000 for physical pain.
"I think the amounts for the award were fair," Brochtrup said. "I'm happy about it. Hopefully, they will start making a change to protect people."