Man wins case after legs lost in river incident: Boat horror payout

A MAN who lost his legs in a Murray River boating incident three years ago will be awarded damages after a Supreme Court judge found the driver of a houseboat was negligent when he reversed into a jet ski.

Anton Nixon was pulled toward the propellers of a houseboat motor while he was trying to retrieve a ski boat that had come loose from the houseboat on October 24, 2014.

Mr Nixon, whose left leg was amputated above the knee and his right leg below the knee, sued the houseboat driver Robert Lines for damages.

They were among a group of friends who had planned to spend a relaxing weekend on a hired houseboat but things went wrong on the first evening, when the party was about a kilometre upstream of Gol Gol.

The group noticed a ski boat being towed behind the houseboat had come loose and Mr Nixon and another man, ­Colin Wilson, were trying to retrieve it when at least one passenger on the houseboat called on Mr Lines to “reverse it up”.

A Supreme Court trial at Mildura heard Mr Lines was unable to see the houseboat’s lower deck – where he knew Mr Nixon and Mr Wilson, had gone to retrieve the ski boat –  as he controlled it from the upper deck.

According to Justice Andrew Keogh’s findings of fact, the reversing houseboat pushed the jet ski, causing it to roll, sending Mr Nixon and Mr Wilson into the water directly behind the houseboat.

The defence argued the houseboat was already moving backwards when Mr Nixon and Mr Wilson were standing on the swim deck, causing the jet ski to move about in the water.

Mr Lines submitted that Mr Nixon did not comply with a sign on the swim deck gate, warning houseboat users not to go on to the deck while the outboard motors were running, and stepped on to the jet ski.

However, Justice Keogh said Mr Lines failed to warn Mr Nixon, who thought the houseboat’s motors were idling, that he was going to reverse the houseboat towards the ski boat.

He said the sign on the swim deck was small and Mr Nixon likely had not seen it before he rushed down to the jet ski.

Justice Keogh found Mr Lines was 95 per cent responsible for the incident and Mr Nixon’s injuries.

“Knowing that Mr Wilson and Mr Nixon went to the lower deck intending to go on to the swim deck and to step on to the jet ski in order to retrieve the ski boat, as had been done on the first occasion it came loose, Mr Lines reversed the houseboat without warning to Mr Nixon and without checking to ensure no person was behind it,” Justice Keogh said.

“I conclude there was breach by Mr Lines of the duty he owed Mr Nixon, which was a cause of the accident and Mr Nixon’s injuries. 

“Judgment will be entered for damages, which were agreed. I will hear from the parties as to the form of the order and as to costs.”

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