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Marine & Recreational Boating Law

Navigating the legal liabilities inherent in the recreational boating industry can be extremely challenging and requires a planned course and a steady hand. 

Plunkett Cooney serves the recreational marine industry in a number of capacities throughout the Midwest and nationally, primarily in commercial litigation and in defense of warranty, product liability, wrongful death, property damage and general negligence claims. The firm currently serves several clients as national litigation counsel for defense of “propeller guard” claims.  Other areas of focus include business loss, bankruptcy, debtor-creditor relations, sales financing, loan negotiation, insurance coverage, environmental issues and regulatory compliance. The firm’s clients include the largest manufacturers of recreational vessels, outboard engines and sterndrives, as well as marinas, boat dealers and their insurance providers.

Marine losses are often significant. Prompt retention of counsel to assist in investigation and defense of such claims is essential. Our Recreational Boating Practice Group helps clients achieve optimum results by involvement from the onset of a loss, even before litigation is commenced, including scene investigation, retention of appropriate experts, preservation of evidence and coordination of defense strategy. Our clients trust us to develop innovative strategies to achieve their desired results. 

Attorneys in this practice group bring a wealth of personal, practical experience to bear on client matters. Avid sailors, powerboaters and waterskiers, Plunkett Cooney’s marine lawyers own a wide variety of watercraft, are members of organizations such as the American Boat & Yacht Council, United States Power Squadrons®, Detroit Yacht Club, Bayview Yacht Club, U.S. Sailing and the Propeller Club of the United States, and they regularly attend industry events such as IBEX and the Miami International Boat Show.

Plunkett Cooney’s litigation approach focuses on early resolution — either by dispositive motion or favorable settlement — to avoid costly and protracted proceedings; however, our track record demonstrates success in all phases of litigation.

Case Studies

Representative Matters

  • Defense verdict for major sterndrive manufacturer in a serious injury case claiming product was defective because it was not equipped with a mechanical propeller guard
  • Summary disposition for major outboard engine manufacturer in two wrongful death cases claiming products were defective because they utilized a nylon insert locknut at the steering link rod connection
  •  Voluntary dismissals for major propulsion unit manufacturer in five cases, including wrongful death and serious injury, claiming products were defective because they were not equipped with a mechanical propeller guard
  •  Summary disposition for major sterndrive manufacturer in wrongful death case claiming negligent failure to instruct boat manufacturer to use anti-siphon valve


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