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Power Boat Manufacturer Veers Off Course in Ontario Product Liability Case

In a previous blog post, Rod Ferguson wrote about the power of the law to effect corrective measures in the manufacturing of products – which we referred to as “the maggots in the chocolate bar case”.

The case was an interesting example of how Ontario tort law can ultimately result in changes to the way products are designed, by holding the manufacturer accountable for the consumer’s health and safety.

You can read Chocolate, Maggots and The Power of Ontario Tort Law here.

As a follow up to that post, we are sharing this account of a product liability case where a manufacturer corrected a defect, but did not recall previously manufactured products. When a defective product is to blame for personal injury or loss or damage to property, making a product liability claim can assist you in gaining compensation for your injuries or loss.

The case in point dealt with the steering apparatus in a very well known stern drive used in power boats.
Originally, the manufacturer used a connection in the steering assembly by inserting a splined shaft on one component into a splined opening in a connecting component. Over time the splines tended to wear away, eventually “slipping” and rendering the boat unsteerable.

Corrective Measures Used as Evidence in Ontario Product Liability Case

Unknown to previous purchasers, the manufacturer replaced the earlier defective design with a connection of a square shaft into a square opening – problem solved.

That is, problem solved for new buyers.

A client of ours was not so lucky and the steering on his boat failed as he was proceeding at planing speed. The boat uncontrollably veered to one side and crashed. We argued that the change in the design should be admitted into evidence to demonstrate the defect.

The contrary argument often used in such a  situation is that manufacturers would be reluctant to make these safety changes if they would subsequently be faced with, in effect, self-incriminating evidence. In this day and age of product recalls, the court accepted the evidence disregarding that obsolete line of thinking and the defendant quickly settled.

If you are interested in learning more about how to gain fair, quick and satisfactory resolution to a product liability, personal injury or civil litigation matter, contact us for a free consultation.


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