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Home / Top Legal News / Loose bolts lead to engine fire, $1M settlement 

Loose bolts lead to engine fire, $1M settlement 

A father and son who were severely burned in a flash fire on their boat have settled their lawsuit for the insurer’s policy limits of $1 million, their attorneys report.  

Kenneth Berger of Columbia and Myrtle Beach and C. Nicholas Cronauer of Sycamore, Illinois, report that their clients suffered second- and third-degree burns over much of their bodies when they tried to use their boat for the first time since having its engine replaced.  

The fire engulfed the boat, the attorneys said, but it could’ve been worse.  

“Because the engine bay was open, the explosion was contained to a flash fire rather than an explosion with shrapnel because the flame could escape from the engine bay being open,” the attorneys wrote in an email to Lawyers Weekly.  

The attorneys said that bolts and stud nuts meant to secure cables and wires to battery terminals were loose and that none of the battery connections employed a safety lock washer to ensure proper torquing and mitigate loosening over time.   

“The gap between the nut and the terminal created a spark upon initiating the bilge pump,” the attorneys wrote. “Properly fastened nuts would not spark.” 

Of five bolts present to secure the boat’s fuel level sender to the top of the fuel tank, none were in the flange holes and just one was found in the fuel sender area, the attorneys said. This caused the fuel sender to be adrift and unable to seal the 2-inch hole in the top of the fuel tank where the sender is mounted.  

“Therefore, with the combination of the right fuel amount and pitch attitude of the vessel fuel can leak out of the mounting opening and into the bilge of the boat,” the attorneys wrote.  

Many of the case’s details were withheld pursuant to a confidentiality agreement, including the names of the parties and defense counsel, but the plaintiff’s attorneys said that the repair shop claimed that it was not responsible for the fuel leak and explosion, denying having ever accessed and replaced the fuel level sender. While the invoice corroborates this, the attorneys said, it did replace the main fuel line just eight inches away from fuel level sender.  

“Plaintiff argued even if not replaced or otherwise loosened for the install, the shop was in the vicinity of the fuel sender lever and should have seen the cap was not screwed in,” the attorneys wrote.  

The attorneys said that both plaintiffs have recovered well and healed without substantial disfigurement.  


Amount: $1 million 

Injuries alleged: Second- and third-degree burns to both plaintiffs 

Case name: Case was settled before any suit was filed 

Venue: Horry County 


Date of settlement: Jan. 27 

Special damages: $241,694.24 

Most helpful experts: John Bloomfield of Hilton Head 

Insurance carrier: Withheld 

Attorneys for plaintiff: Kenneth Berger of Columbia and Myrtle Beach and C. Nicholas Cronauer of Sycamore, Illinois 

Attorney(s) for defendant: Withheld

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