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Boatland of Houston, Inc. v. Bailey

Supreme Court of Texas
609 S.W.2d 743 (1980)


Samuel Bailey (Samuel) was driving a bass boat manufactured by Boatland of Houston, Inc. (Boatland) (defendant) when the boat crashed, throwing Samuel into the water. The boat’s motor remained on after Samuel was thrown off, and the boat circled back, killing Samuel with its propeller. Samuel’s family (plaintiffs) brought suit based on strict liability, claiming that Samuel’s boat should have been equipped with a kill switch that would have shut down the boat if the driver was thrown from the wheel. The plaintiffs presented evidence that kill switches were used in racing boats at the time Samuel’s boat was manufactured. The plaintiffs also presented evidence that at the time of the trial, five years after the manufacture of Samuel’s boat, Boatland itself was installing kill switches on its bass boats. Boatland presented evidence that kill switches were not used on bass boats when Samuel’s boat was manufactured. The jury returned a verdict for Boatland. The court of civil appeals reversed, finding that the state-of-the-art defense was relevant only to a defendant’s conduct and thus was irrelevant to a strict-liability claim. Boatland appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (McGee, J.)

Dissent (Campbell, J.)

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