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Plaintiff was a 21-year-old male who was severely injured on a towable inflatable on the San Joaquin Delta near Tower Park Marina in Lodi, California. He was being towed by a family friend operating a personal water craft. It was a windy day and the inflatable lifted off the water and flew sideways into the levy bank. Plaintiff suffered multiple lacerations, a traumatic brain injury, fractures, a collapsed lung, and permanent facial paralysis.
The case was set for trial against the tube manufacturer and the operator of the personal water craft. Sacramento & Elk Grove-based John M. O'Brien & Associates contended that the tube was defective because it lifted off the water in windy conditions and contained no warnings as to a minimum weight or number of riders necessary to prevent that condition from occurring. The manufacturer defended on the grounds that the tube would not take flight under any conditions regardless of the wind, number or weight of the riders. We refuted this claim with a wind tunnel study. The manufacturer also contended that the accident was solely caused by the negligence of the operator who was towing plaintiff too close to the rocky shoreline at 20 mph in a windstorm. The operator only had a $50,000 insurance policy. The case settled on the eve of trial for $1.45 million.