Don Fountain & Drew Ashby | Batchelder et al v. Malibu Boats, LLC, f/k/a Malibu Boats, Inc.; Malibu Boats West, Inc. et al. | $200 million verdict
This week, your hosts Steve Lowry and Yvonne Godfrey interview Don Fountain of Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather & Littky-Rubin (https://www.clarkfountain.com/) and Drew Ashby of Ashby Thelen & Lowry (https://www.atllaw.com/).
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Don Fountain of Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather & Littky-Rubin and Drew Ashby of Ashby Thelen & Lowry discuss how they successfully represented the grieving parents of a 7-year-old boy who tragically died in an accident involving a defective boat design on Lake Burton in Georgia. On July 17, 2014, Ryan Batchelder was wearing a life jacket and sitting in the bow seating compartment in the front nose of a rented 2000 Malibu Response LC open bow ski boat when he was washed overboard as the boat circled, crossing its own wake and taking on water in a phenomenon known as "bow swamping." As the front of the boat filled with water, the driver put the boat in reverse to raise it to surface level, but the unguarded propeller sucked Ryan in, resulting in severe blood loss and fatal drowning. Don Fountain and Drew Ashby, along with their colleagues, took the case to trial for the Batchelder family to hold accountable the three entities involved in making boats under the name "Malibu Boats," which is the largest ski boat manufacturer in the world. Together, Don and Drew demonstrated that Malibu Boats West, Inc. and Malibu Boats LLC were negligent for failing to provide warnings concerning the bow swamping hazard associated with the open bow boat. In August 2021, a Rabun County, Georgia jury apportioned fault to Malibu Boats West, Inc., Malibu Boats, LLC and the boat driver for Ryan's wrongful death, awarding $80 million in compensatory damages and $120 million in punitive damages. The jury determined that because the Malibu defendants knew about the bow swamping hazard and made the conscious decision not to warn boat owners and users, punitive damages were also warranted, making this the largest pain and suffering wrongful death verdict in Georgia history.
Donald R. Fountain, Jr. is nationally recognized as a top trial attorney and is known for his work around the country for successfully representing catastrophically injured clients during some of the most traumatic and transformational times in their lives. For twenty-five years, Don has been a double board-certified civil trial lawyer by both the state and national boards and has twice been named “Lawyer of the Year” in plaintiff product liability litigation by Best Lawyers in America®, a prestigious award that was published in the Miami Herald and The Wall Street Journal.
During his more than 30 years as a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer, Don has handled cases in more than 25 states and has tried virtually every kind of case – typical and atypical – from a cruise ship hitting an iceberg in Alaska to the mishandling of human remains by a regional funeral home chain. He frequently works on cases across the country related to automotive products liability, tire defects, consumer product defects, road design defects, construction defects, boating and locomotive accidents, aviation liability, legal malpractice, fires and vehicle/truck accidents. Don has earned hundreds of seven and eight figure verdicts and settlements totaling more than $800 million for his clients throughout Florida and the United States.
In 2021, Don and his trial team successfully secured a $200 million verdict in rural Georgia for their clients, Stephan Batchelder and Margaret Batchelder, who tragically lost their 7-year-old son, Ryan Paul Batchelder, in a 2014 boat swamping defect incident. It was the largest verdict in Rabun County Georgia history, and the largest single verdict for pain and suffering associated with wrongful death in the history of the State of Georgia.
Earning titles that include “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in America,” “Leading Plaintiffs’ Lawyers in America,” and “Florida’s Top 10 Attorneys,” Don is frequently called upon by other lawyers to handle major litigation matters that require unique technical expertise and financial resources.
Don is continuously recognized as a “Top Lawyer” in South Florida Legal Guide and as one of the “Legal Elite” in Florida Trend magazine – a recognition he shares with only 2% of lawyers in the state. Don is AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell®, which denotes the highest level of professional excellence and ethical standards in the legal industry. He has been named a Super Lawyer® by his peers for 15 consecutive years.
Drew is an experienced trial lawyer specializing in catastrophic personal injury, defective products, and chemical exposures. Drew has litigated these issues in 15 states.
Drew is one of the only trial lawyers in the country to have secured a seven-figure verdict, an eight-figure verdict, and a nine-figure verdict, all before the age of 40. He holds the record verdict in Rabun County (GA), the record verdict in Lowndes County (GA), and the largest pain and suffering verdict in Georgia history. He holds the 7th largest premises liability verdict in the Southeast in 2019, the 8th largest vehicle crash verdict in the Southeast in 2020, and the largest verdict in any product liability or wrongful death case in Georgia in 2021.
Drew has a special expertise in cases involving defective products of all kinds, including automobiles, aerial lifts and cranes, ATVs, boats, industrial equipment, and a variety of consumer and household products. To date, manufacturers have issued four separate nationwide recalls as a result of his work in cases; most of which were issued in almost unprecedented fashion – in the middle of litigation.
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