In July 2014, the Batchelder family traveled from their home in Lake Worth, Florida to Lake Burton, Georgia for a family reunion and boating vacation. Unfortunately, their beautiful vacation turned into a horrible tragedy because of a company’s negligence.
While the family was boating in Rabun County, seven-year-old Ryan Batchelder was killed when their rental boat— a 2000 Malibu Response LX—became bow-swamped causing the young child to fall overboard and be entangled in the propeller. What was supposed to be a family reunion turned into a family tragedy.
It was later revealed that Malibu Boats knew about the possibility of bow swamping and also continued to sell the boat after they knew about the dangers.
What Was The Final Settlement?
After several years of litigation, Malibu Boats finally offered $2 Million for the family’s loss of their son.
However, the Raybun County jury that heard the case decided to award the family a $200,000,000 Million verdict. This broke down to $80 Million for Ryan’s pain and suffering and wrongful death and another $120 Million in punitive damages against Malibu Boats West Inc. and Malibu Boats LLC.
The record-breaking $200 million verdict was the highest compensation ever awarded by a jury for a wrongful death case in Georgia’s history.
After several more years of appeals, the final settlement was reduced to $100,000,000 Million on the eve of Malibu’s final appeal.
Karma Comes for Malibu
On a side note, Malibu’s insurance only covered $26M of the settlement, forcing Malibu Boats to pay the settlement from its own company pocket. This resulted in Malibu Boats filing a separate bad faith lawsuit against its insurance carriers Starr Insurance and Chubb Limited for failing to settle the case before trial. That case is currently pending.
Ground Breaking Changes in Water Safety
This landmark case not only gave a grieving family the money they deserved, but it also resulted in groundbreaking safety changes in the boating industry.
In July of 2023, Malibu issued a nationwide “Safety Alert” to Malibu boat users advising them of the dangers of boat swamping, limiting the number of passengers, and warning boaters to stay out of the bow when the boat is in motion.
Our Final Thoughts
When asked about the tragic boating case, Attorney Anthony Russo reflected, “Having known the Batchelder Family for more than a decade, it was even more meaningful for this case to serve as the catalyst for industry-wide safety change”.
Any questions about the case can be directed to Anthony Russo at (561) 705-1158.
News Coverage of the Ryan Batchelder Case
- WPBF – Judge Slams Boating Company Found At Fault For Death Of 7-Year-Old Lake Worth Boy
- NBC Washington – Jury Awards $200 Million To Family Of Boy Who Died In Boating Accident
- NBC Washington – 2 Boating Accidents Reveal Practices Safety Experts Say Endanger People On Water
- NBC Boston – Small Craft Advisory: Boating Accidents Reveal Practices Safety Experts Say Endanger People on Water
- Great Trials Podcast Interview: Episode 138
About The Russo Firm
Based in Delray Beach, Florida, The Russo Firm has been serving as national consumer advocates for their clients injured by big corporations for three decades. We have helped our clients to get settlements in excess of $1 Billion with a special focus on compassion and advocacy. Our attorneys have a long track record of success and have been involved in numerous landmark legal cases, such as the Ryan Batchelder case.