Colombo v. BRP US, Inc.Annotate this Case
Defendants-appellants Bombardier Recreational Products, Inc. and BRP US Inc. (collectively BRP) appealed a jury verdict in favor of plaintiffs and respondents Haley Colombo and Jessica Slagel. Because plaintiffs were not wearing a wetsuit bottom or similar protective clothing, Haley sustained serious and permanent injury to her rectum and Jessica to her vagina when, because of operator negligence, they fell off the back of a three-passenger watercraft manufactured by BRP, model GFI 4-TEC. Once in the water, Haley and Jessica were both injured when the powerful jet thrust from the watercraft ripped their flesh. The jury found the owner of the personal watercraft (PWC), Robert Adamson dba Mission Bay Jet Sports (collectively Adamson), its operator and store employee, Brett Kohl, and BRP each one-third liable. The jury also awarded punitive damages against BRP, finding its conduct manifested a reckless or callous disregard for plaintiffs' rights and safety. On appeal, BRP argued the evidence in the record was insufficient to support the jury's causation and punitive damages findings, made under federal maritime common law. In the alternative, it contended the trial court erred when it refused, under the same law, to reduce the amount of punitive damages awarded each plaintiff to equal their respective compensatory damages awards; admitted evidence that, at the time of plaintiffs' accident, BRP had notice of previous claims of orifice injuries to passengers but excluded evidence proffered by BRP to show the causes of the previous claims allegedly were not substantially similar to plaintiffs' accident; and made a series of other rulings that BRP alleges amounted to a denial of a fair trial. The Court of Appeal rejected each of these contentions and affirmed the judgment.