SACRAMENTO – A federal judge has dismissed a personal injury lawsuit filed by a woman who came into contact with the propeller of a houseboat.
Plaintiff Olga Cioban-Leontiy sought damages after jumping from a houseboat on Lake Shasta and contacting the boat’s propeller. She sued in Shasta County Superior Court in May 2017, naming as defendants Silverthorn Resort Associates, the marina that rented the boat, and motor manufacturer Volvo Penta of America. Volvo removed the complaint to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California and on Feb. 20, Silverthorn moved to dismiss the plaintiff's second amended complaint.
In an opinion issued April 25, Judge Morrison England said the case had a “complex procedural posture” spread over nearly two years. He pointed to Cioban-Leontiy’s October 2017 first amended complaint adding Waterway Houseboat Builders as a defendant, after which Silverthorn and Volvo filed cross-claims for indemnity and contribution. However, Waterway was never served with Cioban-Leontiy’s complaint before she voluntarily dismissed the company in May 2018.
After that, Cioban-Leontiy agreed to dismiss the complaint against Volvo in exchange for a waiver of costs. Silverthorn opposed Cioban-Leontiy’s motion to approve that settlement, saying her complaint still contained product liability claims. Cioban-Leontiy declined to amend her pleading, leading to denial of the settlement in November.
Meanwhile, Silverthorn sought judgment on the pleadings in an August 2018 motion that said Cioban-Leontiy’s complaint only included joint allegations that “drew no effective distinction between the respective roles of Silverthorn, Waterway and Volvo in the circumstances surrounding this lawsuit,” according to England, and the court granted that motion on Feb. 6, directing Cioban-Leontiy to amend her complaint, which she did in a Feb. 20 filing.
The second amended complaint, England wrote, “is directed against Silverthorn, only, and appears to eliminate the products liability causes of action previously alleged in the (first amended complaint), instead relying only on negligence and purported ‘strict liability’ claims. The factual averments made against Silverthorn in the (second amended complaint) focus on Silverthorn’s alleged failure to provide appropriate safety information to the occupants of the houseboat after it was rented and before the boat was taken out on Lake Shasta.”
In response, Silverthorn argued the claim for strict liability does not contain specific facts, only alleging Silverthorn did not “modify, want, market and test” the boat to safeguard against propeller injuries after it was “marketed, leased, rented, and otherwise placed in the stream of commerce,” the ruling states. The complaint also did not stipulate how Silverthorn should have carried out those goals.
England sided with Silverthorn, explaining that while the “plaintiff's negligence claim provides some factual specificity, as far as strict liability is concerned the allegations enumerated above amount to only a formulaic recitation devoid of any meaningful facts.”
He also noted Cioban-Leontiy’s opposition to the motion for dismissal “inexplicably refers” to her first amended complaint, not the superseding second, adding “this presents yet another layer of confusion.”
After ultimately determining the second amended complaint does not state a viable cause of action for strict liability, England granted Silverthorn’s motion to dismiss. He gave Cioban-Leontiy 20 days in which to file a third amended complaint. If she fails to do so, her negligence complaint will be dismissed with prejudice.