Lake Milton woman sues over watercraft injuries

YOUNGSTOWN — A Lake Milton woman is suing a Canadian recreational products company over injuries she said she suffered after falling off a personal watercraft in August 2017.

Jessica Bartholomew filed the lawsuit in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court against Bombardier Recreational Products, Inc., of Valcourt, Quebec. A hearing is set July 22 before Judge John Durkin, court records show.

The lawsuit states that on Aug. 9, 2017, Bartholomew was riding a Sea-Doo across Lake Milton as a passenger in the seat closest to the rear of the watercraft when she slid off the seat and fell directly behind it. She landed with her legs in close proximity to the jet thrust of the jet drive propulsion system, which caused severe injuries to her pelvic region, buttocks, colon and internal organs, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims the Sea-Doo sold by the company was defectively designed by not providing riders with adequate mobility restraints, handholds, straps, grips, seating configuration and / or tail design that would prevent the rearmost passenger from sliding backward off the seat and falling directly into the jet thrust.

The suit also claims several safer alternative designs existed at the time the product was manufactured and those safer alternatives would have incorporated a grip strap across the seat that could be held between the passenger’s legs so the passenger could secure themselves to the watercraft; handholds in or adjacent to the seat high enough and located in front of the last passenger so they could reach and grab the handles while keeping their center of gravity sufficiently forward; or a contoured seat with a bolster or backrest high enough to prevent the last passenger from sliding off the back.

Bartholomew claims she suffered severe injuries from the forceful injection of water, resulting in “pain and suffering, impairment, disability, disfigurement, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, expense of hospitalization, medical care and treatment, and the loss of ability to earn money.” The suit states her injuries are permanent, and she will continue to suffer losses in the future.

The suit claims the Sea-Doo was placed on the market without adequate warning that someone could slide off the back and land in the path of “an extremely dangerous jet of water” and that such injuries could occur. It also states the warnings provided were small, inconspicuous, hidden within a barrage of warnings and vague, and therefore were in violation of industry standards.

Bartholomew is seeking at least $75,000 in compensatory and $75,000 in punitive damages, according to the filing.

BRP’s media advisor declined to comment on the case because the the matter is before the court.