Marina Explosion Minimized

September 20, 2018

John W. Patton, Jr. and David F. Ryan, along with attorney Kelly L. Ferron, a Florida-licensed attorney, were brought into three boat explosion cases that had been litigated for five years previously. The cases all arose out of a major explosion aboard a 32’ pleasure craft in Tampa, Florida, which very severely injured 11 individuals. One Plaintiff had three limbs amputated, and another lost a leg at the hip. Others sustained a plethora of fractures, collapsed lungs, and other injuries requiring multiple surgeries. Patton & Ryan worked with Miami counsel to defend the subject boat’s marina that also employed an individual who did work on the subject marine generator that was involved in the explosion just a few months before the incident.

The issues were quite complicated, and Patton & Ryan worked extremely closely with its electrical engineers, cause and origin expert, and metallurgist who actually built a to-scale test chamber simulating the engine compartment of the subject vessel to run a series of tests in order to determine both the fuel source and the ignition source (fuel source + ignition source = explosion). Our attorneys worked with our experts at their facility and observed many of these tests in order to learn the most probable causes of the explosion, build our defenses and prove, systematically, that each theory set forth by Plaintiff’s key experts on both the ignition source and the fuel source was incorrect. Our testing did just that.

Creating additional complications, the Plaintiff failed to preserve the subject vessel. By the time suit was filed three years after the incident, the boat had been in dry dock in a junkyard, in the Florida elements and heat, which destroyed much evidence and made things quite problematic for our experts to determine the cause and origin of the explosion, particularly in identifying the ignition source. Patton & Ryan thus drafted a motion to obtain a jury instruction on spoliation (the sole remedy available in Florida), creating a negative inference that the Plaintiff’s failure to preserve the vessel properly was due to it having negative effects on Plaintiff’s case. We also filed a number of summary judgment motions, all of which helped lead to an excellent settlement.

Ultimately, Patton & Ryan’s aggressive, hard-line, and proactive approach in defending this case, ensuring the defense had the most effective experts, ensuring that the necessary motions were prepared, and working closely with our experts and their testing to prove Plaintiff’s experts completely wrong, all done within a span of less than a year, led to a very favorable settlement of approximately 15% of what Plaintiff was seeking to obtain for all eleven Plaintiffs in all three cases.