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Estate of Fishing-Boat Blast Victim Settles Monmouth Co. Suit for $2.4M Estate of Warn v. Silverton Marine Corp: The estate of a man who died of injuries from a fishing-boat explosion last Monday accepted $2.1 million in a product-liability suit against the boat’s manufacturer. A negligence suit against the boat’s owner had settled for $300,000. The blast occurred on Nov. 18, 1997, when Thomas Warn, 36, of Hazlet, tried to connect a battery to power a light on his father-in-law’s craft in dry dock at a Keansburg marina. Warn was in the boat to remove some personal belongings. The complaint alleged that the explosion was caused by a defectively designed drainage system that allowed water to collect in the engine compartment, rather than be funneled out holes in the side of the craft, a 1975 28-foot Super Sport made by Silverton Marine Corp. of Millville. The water eventually degraded the fuel-tank casing, which allowed gasoline to seep into the engine compartment and for fumes to escape into the air, and the fumes ignited from a spark when Warn connected the battery, according to experts for the estate’s lawyer, Raymond Gill Jr. of Woodbridge’s Gill & Chamas. One of the experts also said cold weather on the day of the accident would have hindered Warn’s ability to smell the fumes. The undisputed evidence also showed that before the accident, owner Gary Sherrow, Warn’s father-in law, was aware of the poor condition of the gas tanks because the marina manger had advised him to replace them, Gill says. Warn spent 16 months at St. Barnabas Hospital in Livingston trying to recover from severe burns but died there in March 1999. The settlement, just before a trial scheduled by Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Jamie Perri, calls for a $2.1 million payment by Silverton Marine’s carrier, AIG Insurance Co. of New York. Sherrow’s boat liability insurer, Allstate Insurance Co. of Bricktown, previously agreed to pay the policy limit, $300,000, and made no attempt to refute the allegations, Gill says. He says he was concerned after jury focus-group research that the trial would result in an assessment of most of the liability against the defendant with the least coverage. He says the medical insurer’s willingness to settle its $1 million health care lien for $100,000 reinforced the notion that the product-liability claim was difficult. Silverton’s counsel, Francis Manchisi, a partner in the White Plains, N.Y., office of Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, says his evidence suggested that the boat might not have been the Silverton product it was alleged to be. The boat’s identification number included a prefix normally used for homemade boats, but the issue was clouded because the remains of the craft were disposed of after the blast, Manchisi says. Manchisi says the evidence would have shown that poor maintenance by the owner would have defeated any drain system design, including any Gill’s experts could advance. Sherrow’s lawyer, John Prindiville of Brick’s Mauro, Barry & Prindiville, did not return calls for comment. Had there been a trial, the jury would have had a field trip to a 1975 Silverton Super Sport that Gill bought and put in a dry dock in the same position as Sherrow’s boat. Manchisi says he had no objection to Gill’s request for a visit by the jury, as long as the panel understood the defense wasn’t conceding that such a boat was involved in the accident. � By Henry Gottlieb

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