Trial over defective fiberglass on ship's hull begins in Galveston

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Feb. 10, 2010, 10:32am

GALVESTON - Opening statements in the deliberation of a Tyler man's trial against a Washington State-based watercraft manufacturer, a Kemah watercraft dealer, and a couple of individuals over alleged defects in the plaintiff's boat were given Feb. 9 before a five-man, six-woman Galveston County jury.

As the Southeast Texas Record reported in March 2008, Edgar Lee Hull sued Aksano Boats, South Coast Catamarans, Oguz "Oz" Aksan and Jamie Babcock in Galveston County District Court for allegedly committing deceptive trade in a transaction involving an 18-foot Aksano F-18 watercraft the plaintiff purchased in September 2007.

Ironically, Hull's problems were with the hull of the vessel.
Houston attorney Chris D. Collings, who is representing Hull, said the defendants were "selfish" and "greedy" when they refused and failed to fix the boat and compensate the plaintiff, accusing them of bungling what was supposed to be a routine purchase.

In response, Houston defense attorneys Larry P. Walton and John S. Powell stated that the vessel did not have problems from the time it was shipped to Hull until after he received it and made modifications to it, thus maintaining their clients bear no responsibility.

Collings insisted the suit would have been unnecessary if the hull had not been so thin and cracked when Hull received it that a person could push a finger into the fiberglass.

Court papers explained that a fiberglass technician showed Hull that the gel coating on the hull could be easily pressed, prompting the plaintiff to secure a marine surveyor, which Collings noted he did at his own expense.

The surveyor recommended the hull and the top deck be taken apart and replaced. Both were damaged greatly to the point where the boat could no longer be used, Collings said.

He also said Hull tried to address the situation with the defendants to no avail, and was told he could not get a refund nor send the boat back.

Walton, who is representing South Coast and Babcock, asserts that Hull is attempting to group the businesses and the individuals together to make them liable when he was fully aware that the transaction between him and the manufacturer.

Hull purchased the boat from Aksano Boats and not his clients, Walton said.

He stressed that South Coast and Babcock did not have anything to do with the boat's troubles, and Hull created problems for the watercraft when he took it to a shop in Northwest Houston for modifications.

Walton went on to tag Hull as an active dealer and said that just because his clients are the targets of a lawsuit, it does not mean they are in the wrong.

Powell told the jury that the suit should have never been filed in the first place.

Echoing Walton's statements, he argued that the watercraft was fine until Hull took control of it.

The real problems did not show up during the delivery phase, but after Hull's modifications, Powell said.

Out of more than 400 boats sold by the defendant, Hull's was the only one that has drawn a legal dispute, he added.

Powell said Hull should have given the defendants ample time to repair or replace the boat. The lawsuit occurred without talking, according to Powell.

Case No. 08cv0236

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