Mazzola Law Firm and Baker Zimmerman will soon be filing another PWC orifice injury lawsuit against Yamaha Motor Corp in Miami-Dade County, Florida. The suit will be filed on behalf of a 27 year old Orlando resident that sustained severe rectal and perineal injuries upon falling off the back of a 2016 Yamaha Waverunner. Further details forthcoming.
On May 26, 2017, Mazzola Law Firm, in collaboration with Baker and Zimmerman, P.A., filed the matter of Ravazzani v. Yamaha Motor Corporation, USA in the District Court for Miami-Dade County, Florida. For those interested, the following press release includes more details about the case as well as a link to the complaint:
I came across this article last night and found it to be well-written:
On June 14, 2016, 29 year old Clara Ravazzani sustained massive, internal orifice injuries when she fell off the back of a Yamaha Waverunner and came into contact with the jet thrust from the watercraft’s jet propulsion system. At the time of the incident, Ravazzani was riding behind her boyfriend Pete Rosa’s daughter, on a 3-seater waverunner that Rosa was driving.
Ravazzani’s injuries required the surgical implantation of a colostomy bag and were so severe that she nearly succumbed due to blood loss. Without Rosa’s quick intervention and insistence that she be life-flighted to Miami’s Ryder Trauma Center, Ravazzani’s injuries would likely have proved fatal. The incident occurred in northern Biscayne Bay, near Boca Chita Key.
Clara Ravazzani is being represented by the Mazzola Law Firm, PLLC.
Those interested in following the Ravazzani v. Yamaha matter (or any matter referenced on this website) can check back for blog updates documenting case developments or simply subscribe to the RSS feed.
On August 30, 2016, 22 year old Cat Grefsrud of Pelican Rapids, Minnesota sustained massive, internal orifice injuries when she fell off the back of a Kawasaki Jet Ski. The accident happened shortly after she and two friends decided to go for a jet ski ride on Lake Lizzie near her home. Like too many others, Ms. Grefsrud’s injuries required life-saving surgical intervention and the implantation of a colostomy bag.
Ms. Grefsrud is being represented by the Mazzola Law Firm, PLLC.
Those interested in following the Grefsrud v. Kawasaki matter (or any matter referenced on this website) can check back for blog updates documenting case developments or simply subscribe to the RSS feed.
On September 12, 2016, 24 year old Holly Hutton of Kirtland, Ohio sustained massive, internal orifice injuries when she fell off the back of a 2016 Yamaha Waverunner. She and her boyfriend had rented the waverunner only moments prior to her being rushed to a nearby emergency room for life-saving surgical intervention. The accident happened in the northern Outer Banks near Duck, North Carolina.
Ms. Hutton is being represented by the Mazzola Law Firm, PLLC.
Those interested in following the Hutton v. Yamaha Motor Corporation matter (or any matter referenced on this website) can check back for blog updates documenting case developments or simply subscribe to the RSS feed.
In an article from the Journal of Forensic Sciences 58(1) · August 2012, titled Forensic Epidemiologic and Biomechanical Analysis of a Pelvic Cavity Blowout Injury Associated with Ejection from a Personal Watercraft (Jet-Ski), the authors begin with a summary of the PWC propulsion system and the biomechanical analysis of the injury mechanism for (what they refer to as) “anovaginal ‘blowout’ injuries”. They write as follows:
“Jet-propelled personal watercraft (PWC) or jet-skis have become increasingly popular. The means of propulsion of PWC, which is a jet of water forced out of small nozzle at the rear of the craft, combined with a high risk of falling off of the seat and into close proximity with the water jet stream, raise the potential for a unique type of injury mechanism. The most serious injuries associated with PWC falls are those that occur when the perineum passes in close proximity to the jet nozzle and the high-pressure water stream enters the vaginal or rectal orifice. We describe the forensic investigation into a case of an anovaginal ‘blowout’ injury in a passenger who was ejected from the rear seat position of a PWC and subsequently suffered life-threatening injuries to the pelvic organs. The investigation included a biomechanical analysis of the injury mechanism, a summary of prior published reports of internal pelvic injuries resulting from PWC falls as well as other water sports and activities, and a comparison of the severity of the injuries resulting from differing mechanisms using the New Injury Severity Score (NISS). The mean (±standard deviation [SD]) NISS values for reported PWC injuries [not including the NISS of 38 in this case study] were 11.2 (±9.5), while the mean value for reported water-skiing falls was half that of the PWC group at 5.6 (±5.2). It was concluded that the analyzed injuries were unique to a PWC ejection versus other previously described non-PWC-associated water sport injuries. It is recommended that PWC manufacturers help consumers understand the potential risks to passengers with highly visible warnings and reduce injury risk with revised seat design, and/or passenger seat ‘deadman’ switches.”
While revising the seat design is certainly among the viable options PWC manufacturers have at their disposal for eliminating internal orifice injuries, it would seem as though the same cannot be said of passenger seat deadman switches. Indeed, in order for a passenger seat deadman switch to be a viable option, there would have to be some mechanism in place that allowed the driver to retain control over the direction of the watercraft despite the engine being shut down due to passenger ejection.
Off-Throttle/Off-Power Steering Systems
Once a bold new idea, off-throttle steering systems have become commonplace in today’s personal watercraft. Originally conceived as a solution to the loss of steering control when thrust stops flowing through the pump — such as when a panicked rider releases the throttle and attempts to make an abrupt turn to avoid an object in their path — OTS systems began to appear across all major PWC manufacturer’s lines around 2003.
The motivation behind their appearance can be traced to calls from the Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board for a solution to a PWC’s lack of directional control once thrust was removed (as well as the extensive nationwide litigation that resulted therefrom). Those calls were spurred by a 1998 NTSB study that found most PWC fatalities were not the result of drowning, but instead blunt force trauma — the type of accident that results from a collision with another boater or fixed object. As PWC essentially lost most directional control once a driver released the throttle, manufacturers agreed to work on a solution that would return some minimal level of control to the driver and help avoid a collision.
The inclusion of OTS into most craft is relatively seamless. The system works by detecting two coinciding occurrences, the abrupt release of the throttle and a full turn to port or starboard. Electronic sensors note the two situations, and respond by increasing RPM just enough to once again push some water through the jet nozzle. That small blast of propulsion is just enough to start the craft turning in the direction the driver has turned the handlebars, hopefully allowing the craft to begin an evasive maneuver and avoid the object in the craft’s path. Kawasaki, Sea-Doo and Yamaha all continue to use off-throttle steering (OTS) systems.
Unlike off-throttle steering systems (whereby the throttle is un-engaged but the engine is still on), off-power steering is — well, just what it sounds like — steering without power. Off-Power Assisted Steering (O.P.A.S.), as that term was coined by Bombardier, involves the use of mechanical rudders, located at the aft portion of the hull, which were tucked out of the way during normal operation, but dropped down into the water when throttle was released. Water pressure siphoned off the pump kept them in the retracted position underway; when that pressure was removed, the rudders dropped into the water. A linkage to the steering nozzle allowed them to pivot in conjunction with the handlebars, providing directional control much like a sterndrive or outboard engine’s skeg. The primary advantage touted by Bombardier was obvious — the system would work even should the engine stall or the driver accidentally pull the lanyard. The craft did not have to be under power for the system to respond. To my knowledge, Sea-Doo is the only PWC that has ever been offered with off-power assisted steering.
While all personal watercraft come standard with a deadman switch for the driver (in the form of a safety lanyard), to date, not a single make or model of PWC has been manufactured to include a deadman switch for passengers. Frankly, I’m not convinced a passenger kill switch is even a workable option. At least based on the current state of technology…
We recently filed a products liability lawsuit against Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP) on behalf of yet another woman that suffered a rectal blowout (and subsequent colostomy) after falling off the back of a personal watercraft — in this case a 2006 Sea Doo RXP. How many more women will have to suffer these horrific, life-altering injuries before the folks at Bombardier think, “hey we may have a problem”?
Bunch v. Bombardier Recreational Products (BRP)
We filed another personal watercraft internal orifice injury lawsuit today on behalf of a Fort Worth woman that nearly died after her jet ski accident on Lake Benbrook. Like all previous cases, my client had no idea when she hopped on the back of that watercraft that she could end up in a hospital intensive care unit for over three weeks for treatment of massive rectal and vaginal injuries. The case, styled Wadlleigh v. Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A., involves Kawasaki’s Jet Ski Ultra 150 model.
Disputes over warnings almost always bleed over into disputes over product design. And despite both being mechanisms for controlling product hazards and promoting safety, warning and design represent polar extremes in viewpoints on responsibility, blame and legal interests. Under the design approach, the product manufacturer/designer bears the responsibility for product safety. On the other hand, the warning approach places responsibility for the product’s safety onto the user (by requiring action/inaction on the part of the user to address safety hazards arising from design flaws that could have been designed out of the product).
Design and warnings both have advantages and disadvantages. The major advantage of warnings is that they are relatively cheap, so naturally product manufacturers prefer them. This is fine, since there is no denying that practical considerations always play a role in safety, as in everything else. However, warnings also have a major down-side; they are highly unreliable. Research has repeatedly shown, that outside the artificial world of university laboratories, warnings frequently (and some would say usually) fail.
Design costs more but has the advantage of being, in principle, a more certain means for preventing accidents. Human factors professionals widely recognize the unreliability of warnings and superiority of design. This is illustrated by the various safety protocols that human factors and ergonomic professionals employ. The most common is referred to as the “Safety Hierarchy”:
When a hazard is identified, the safest approach is to perform a redesign which removes the hazard. If redesign is not feasible, then the next best approach is to employ a guard or barrier to separate the user from the hazard. If the guard is not feasible, then the next step is to use a warning. Use of the Safety Hierarchy is standard safety practice.
Despite slight industry-specific variations in the safety hierarchy, all are based on the premise that warnings and other methods that depend on user behavior are inferior compared to design changes that eliminate the hazard or guard against the hazard. Safety mechanisms can be classified based upon their reliance on user behavior, as follows (note that the order is also the order of effectiveness):
- No dependence on user behavior – Design changes which provide complete separation of the user from the hazard;
- Partial dependence on user behavior – Guards that are not complete or tamper-proof. In some cases, users can circumvent guards, forget to use them or actively attempt to defeat them, i.e., disabling a lockout;
- Complete dependence on user behavior – Warnings, training, procedures and protective clothing.
Why does the effectiveness of a safety mechanism decline upon increased reliance on user behavior? The reasons are both numerous and varied: People become tired and distracted. They work under pressure to get the job done. They know that warnings are often for legal “cover-your-ass” purposes rather than safety ones. They see everyone else ignoring the warning or not following procedures with no bad consequences. They believe that they can control the risk, or they believe that there is no risk.
Application of the Safety Hierarchy to the PWC Industry
As addressed in a previous blog entry, the inadequacy of using only a warning remedy for the hazard of rear ejection orifice injuries is, or should be, apparent to personal watercraft manufacturers. Compliance with a warning to wear a wetsuit or a wetsuit bottom when riding as a passenger on a PWC would be predictably and reasonably low in light of various factors reliably shown in human factors research to affect compliance with product warnings: perception of risk, cost of compliance, and the tendency to emulate others.
Perception of risk. Perception of risk for operating or riding on personal watercraft is lower than the risks associated with the use of other motorized recreational vehicles. Research has also shown that the risk perception for riding as a passenger on a personal watercraft was exceptionally low and not reliably different from numerous low-risk activities such as riding in a small private plane or talking on a home telephone during a thunderstorm. Low perception of risk decreases compliance with warnings.
Cost of compliance. A common difficulty in producing compliance with warnings is the cost of compliance. A variety of studies have shown that the cost of compliance affects the use of safety equipment. For a person simply wanting to ride as a passenger on a PWC and having no access to a wetsuit or wetsuit bottom, the cost of compliance in obtaining one would, almost always, be enormous. Many times riding as a passenger on a PWC is often not a planned event, but the opportunity to do so is taken when it is available. Very seldom will the operator or owner of a PWC, who offers a ride, have available a wetsuit, a wetsuit bottom, or some other item of protective clothing. High costs of compliance decrease compliance with warnings.
Tendency to emulate others. A variety of studies in human factors have found that compliance with warnings is reduced by observing others in the situation who do not comply. Research shows that the use of wetsuits, wet suit bottoms, or neoprene shorts when riding as passengers on personal watercraft is practically nonexistent. That research to date involves the observations of over 300 PWC users in seven states during the summer months of 2004. Wet suits, wet suit bottoms, or neoprene shorts were worn by only 4% of operators and by only 1% of passengers. Almost all operators and passengers on PWCs wore only swimsuits.
Bottom line – If PWC manufacturers really cared about safety as they profess to, they would manufacture personal watercraft in accordance with the safety hierarchy, and incorporate design changes into PWC that would prevent orifice injuries, rather than simply providing a warning that such injuries can occur.
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