In Gozleveli v. Kohnke, a Florida couple bought two jet skis in 2012. Following the couple’s purchase, their 26-year-old son allowed a male friend and a 42-year-old woman with no personal watercraft experience to operate one of the jet skis. The couple’s son apparently informed the friend that the woman did not have permission to operate the machine. In addition, the son provided his friend with a tutorial regarding how to operate the jet skis. Although the woman was in the vicinity at the time of the tutorial, it was unclear whether she was paying attention.
Next, the couple’s son boarded one jet ski and his friend boarded the other with the woman riding as a passenger. The two men operated the personal watercrafts using the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale, Florida until they reached the Atlantic Ocean. After about three hours, the men began returning to the couple’s home. Near the entrance to the Intracoastal Waterway, the son’s friend allowed the woman to operate one of the personal watercrafts. Although the son was initially unaware his friend permitted the woman to operate the jet ski, he did not demand that the friend resume control once this was discovered. Eventually, the son told the woman to follow him home via the waterway.
During the trip back to the couple’s home, the woman apparently lost control of the jet ski and crashed into a nearby dock. As a result of the collision, the woman suffered numerous injuries and spent two months in a medical facility. Later, the woman filed a negligent entrustment claim against the couple’s son in the Southern District of Florida.
Following a non-jury trial, the federal court stated that general maritime law applied to the case. The court also ruled that the couple’s son negligently entrusted the injured woman with the personal watercraft because he had reason to know she was likely to suffer harm due to her inexperience. The court next determined the woman was comparatively negligent, since the evidence offered at trial showed that her own actions contributed to her harm. Despite this, the court said comparative negligence is not a bar to recovery under admiralty law.
Ultimately, the Southern District of Florida held that the woman was responsible for 40 percent of her injuries. The court also attributed 60 percent of the fault for the woman’s harm to the adult son of the couple who owned the jet skis. After apportioning fault, the Florida court awarded the injured woman more than $800,000 in damages.
If you were hurt by someone else’s negligent act in South Florida, you should discuss your rights with a caring personal injury lawyer. To speak with a knowledgeable South Florida maritime law attorney today, give the dedicated advocates at Friedman, Rodman & Frank, P.A. a call at (305) 448-8585 or contact us through our website.
Gozleveli v. Kohnke, Dist. Court, SD Florida 2015
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