Woman sues boat operator, renter
Deondra Scott was seriously injured by a propeller at Lake Norman event in June.
By Gary L. Wright
By Gary L. Wright The Charlotte Observer
Posted: Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012
A Charlotte woman who lost one of her arms and her breasts after being struck by a boat propeller on Lake Norman last June has sued the boat operator.
Deondra Scott – who also is suing the boat manufacturer and the person who rented out the boat – claims she was struck twice by a propeller after she'd jumped into the water at the Lake Bash on Lake Norman.
Scott alleges that Dennis F. Allen, the boat's operator, had never operated a motorboat before the accident and did not have the skill to handle a motorboat in a public area, especially during one of the most crowded events on Lake Norman.
Scott, 25, claims that she was injured while Allen was maneuvering the motorboat in an attempt to tie it to another boat and participate in the Lake Bash. Allen had rented the motorboat to go to the Lake Bash with a group of friends, including Scott, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that a few of Allen's passengers, including Scott, had jumped into the water while Allen was trying to tie up the boat.
The lawsuit alleges that Allen, because of his inexperience, lack of training and inability to see people in the water, failed to turn off the engine and continued to try to tie up with another boat.
“As (Scott) was swimming towards the ladder attached to the stern of the boat so that she could board the swim platform, Ms. Jennifer Pagliaro (a passenger in the boat), along with other people in the area, screamed at defendant Allen to cut (immediately turn off) the engine,” the lawsuit says.
Allen “panicked” and “slammed” the throttle into a reverse gear, striking Scott with the boat's propeller, the lawsuit alleges. Scott claims Allen then put the boat into a forward gear, causing the propeller to strike her again.
Scott alleges in the lawsuit that she suffered severe injuries, including lacerations to her right arm and breasts. The arm and breasts have been amputated, she says. She claims she also suffered serious lacerations to both legs, a punctured lung and a severed sternum.
Scott alleges that as a result of Allen's “reckless and negligent actions,” she has suffered damages – “medical bills, lost wages, permanent injury, scarring, loss of limb, loss of other essential body parts, pain and suffering in excess of ten thousand dollars.” She says she also has “suffered extreme emotional and psychological problems.”
Allen, 30, was charged with operating a boat in a reckless manner. The misdemeanor charge is pending.
Scott also has sued David D. Orzolek and Chaparral Boats Inc. Orzolek rented the motorboat to Allen and Chaparral Boats designed, manufactured and marketed the boat, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges that Orzolek was aware or should have been aware that Allen had never operated a motorboat and knew or should have known the danger Allen posed to the public.
Orzolek “erroneously entrusted, poorly supervised and inadequately trained defendant Allen, subjecting (Scott) to great risk,” the lawsuit alleges.
Scott claims that Chaparral Boats sold the motorboat to the public despite its unsafe design for a 14-passenger boat. She claims that seven passengers are necessarily seated behind the operator, potentially obstructing his or her vision.
The boat's swim platform and ladder, the lawsuit alleges, are only a few feet from the boat's propeller.
Allen and Orzolek could not be reached for comment Monday.
Bob Ellis, a customer service specialist with Chaparral Boats in Nashville, Ga., said the company's lawyers are investigating the incident. “We were not aware this had occurred until we got the lawsuit,” Ellis said.
Staff researchers Marion Paynter and Maria David contributed
Our view from the helm is this: Dennis F. Allen who was driving the boat and Deondra Scott who was struck by the boat both share responsibility for this accident. Mr. Allen for failing to properly control his passengers and Ms. Scott for jumping out of the boat and then swimming back to it while the motor was still running. It is not the fault of Chaparral Boats or the business that rented the boat to Mr. Allen.