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Santos-Rodriguez v. Seastar Solutions

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

June 8, 2017

BERNARDINO SANTOS-RODRIGUEZ, G.S.G.; F.A.S.G.; GREGORY SANTOS; MILAGROS LÓPEZ, Plaintiffs, Appellants,
v.
SEASTAR SOLUTIONS, f/k/a/ TELEFLEX CANADA LTD., Defendant, Appellee, RAÚL VIERA-TORRES; MARCELO COLÓN-TORRES; COOPERATIVA DE SEGUROS MÚLTIPLES DE PUERTO RICO; UNKNOWN ENGINES MANUFACTURER CORP.; UNKNOWN CONTROLS MANUFACTURER CORP.; UNKNOWN DISTRIBUTOR CORP.; JOHN DOE; RICHARD ROE; INSURANCE COMPANIES X, Y AND Z; SEA FOX BOAT COMPANY, INC.; YAMAHA MOTOR MANUFACTURING CORPORATION OF AMERICA, Defendants.

         APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF PUERTO RICO [Hon. Marcos E. López, U.S. Magistrate Judge]

          Carlos A. Del Valle-Cruz, with whom Humberto Guzmán-Rodríguez and Guzmán & Rodríguez were on brief, for appellants.

          Salvador J. Antonetti-Stutts, with whom Aura Montes-Rodríguez, Christian Echavarri-Junco, Nayuan Zouairabani and O'Neill & Borges LLC were on brief, for appellee.

          Before Torruella, Thompson, and Barron, Circuit Judges.

          TORRUELLA, Circuit Judge.

         Plaintiff Bernardino Santos-Rodríguez ("Santos") was injured in a boating accident when a corroded rod end that was part of the boat's steering mechanism failed. Santos and several relatives sued Defendant Seastar Solutions ("Seastar"), the manufacturer of the boat's steering mechanism, alleging a design defect and a failure to warn. Santos appeals from the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Seastar. We affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         1. The Boating Accident

         On June 25, 2010, Santos was riding in a twin-engine boat in a bay near Guayama, Puerto Rico. Raúl Viera-Torres ("Viera") owned the boat, which was equipped with a hydraulic steering system manufactured in 2002 by Seastar (then known as Teleflex Canada Ltd.). The rod connecting the steering system to the right motor had a ball-joint at the end, which broke while the boat was in motion, resulting in a loss of steering and ejecting Santos from the boat. Santos sustained extensive injuries, resulting in paraplegia. None of the other plaintiffs, all relatives of Santos, were in the boat. Subsequent examination revealed that the rod end failed because of corrosion.

         2. The Instruction Manual and the Boat's Maintenance

         The steering system's instruction manual (the "Manual") informed owners that "[b]i-annual inspection [of the steering system] by a qualified marine mechanic is required" and instructed them to "[c]heck fittings and seal locations for leaks or damage and service as necessary." The Manual did not include a specific warning about corrosion of the rod end.

         The boat's owner, Viera, acquired it second-hand. He did not perform maintenance on the boat, did not keep a maintenance log or request maintenance documentation from the previous owner, and did not read the Manual or any of the warnings affixed to the steering system. Viera hired third-party mechanics to maintain the boat, but none of those mechanics ever brought the corroded rod end to Viera's attention.

         B. ...


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