On July 22, 2016, Tony Gibson, Tim Dunlap and Rich Wade left the East Chicago Marina in Indiana around 8:00 p.m. Mr. Gibson was at the helm of his 42 foot Fountain (a “cigarette” type speedboat) with Mr. Dunlap and Mr. Wade aboard as passengers en route to the Calumet Yacht Club.
Mr. Dunlap, Mr. Wade and Mr. Gibson left the Calumet Yacht Club around 10:15 p.m. on July 22, 2016 and were headed back to the East Chicago Marina. The Gibson boat crashed into the eastern end of the breakwall at a Steel Producer’s facility in East Chicago, Indiana. The plaintiff claimed, supported by Tony Gibson’s testimony, the marine lantern was non-operational that evening and had it been working, Tony Gibson would have steered around the breakwall.
A marine lantern, a mini lighthouse structure 45 feet in height, is designed to show the presence of off shore structures, such as a breakwall, at night. There was no dispute defendant, Security Company, had a contract with Steel Producer to provide security services at the Steel Producer’s facility. The scope of the security services included checking the marine lantern once every 8-hour shift to determine if it was operational. The marine lantern is considered a private aid to navigation by the United States Coast Guard and as such its owner (Steel Producer) must maintain it. Defendant Marine Lantern Manufacturer designed the marine lantern in question. Plaintiff alleged and discovered evidence of a design defect in the Marine Lantern.
Plaintiff also alleged Mr. Gibson was traveling at an excessive rate of speed (the nighttime speed limit on Lake Michigan is 10 mph and he was going 3-4 times that speed) and was boating while impaired. Mr. Dunlap was ejected from Mr. Gibson’s boat and drowned after it crashed into the breakwall.
The case was settled after nine jurors had been selected.
Bob Napleton and David Gallagher represented the plaintiff.