Yesterday a three-judge panel of the eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld an award given to a Nebraska man for injuries caused in a boating accident, but not the amount given to his wife.
The man, one Daniel Doyle, went fishing in 2003 with a friend, Leland Graske, who owned the inflatable boat and a vacation home on Grand Cayman Island. As they were traveling in the boat, Graske accelerated as the steering system failed and the boat suddenly turned. That threw Doyle overboard.
The boat continued turning and struck Doyle in the chest. He was hospitalized and treated but because of respiration troubles his brain was damaged from lack of oxygen. Doyle sued Graske, claiming that Graske’s negligence caused his injuries. The case was moved to a federal court in 2005 and not until 2008 did the federal judge make a ruling.
The judge ruled that Graske was responsible for the most part, but that Doyle’s negligence was also partly responsible. He awarded $3.2 million to Doyle and an extra $750,000 to Doyle’s wife for her losses. Graske appealed against the finding that he was negligent in operating the boat, and against the additional damages for Doyle’s wife.
The federal panel’s reasoning in upholding the $3.2 million to Doyle but not the amount to his wife was that if Doyle’s wife received separate damages because of the effect Doyle’s injury had on their marriage, it would “give rise to two serious disparities between general maritime law and legislative policies.” One would be that spouses of people injured outside of state territorial waters could then be treated differently than spouses of those injured fatally.
If you have been injured in a boating accident and would like to know more about your legal rights and options, please contact our personal injury lawyers today. We will be happy to schedule a free consultation for you.