The eight-member jury was unanimous in its decision handed down in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids shortly before 3 p.m. Friday.
The decision marks the end of the final lawsuit over a boating crash that took the life of a Spring Lake High School student and severely injured two other people on Labor Day weekend 2009.
Jurors awarded Alexis Youngberg $4.6 million in damages after finding Jack McKeough negligent. Jurors said the boat's owner, Michael McKeough, was also liable in the case because he owned the boat his then-14-year-old son was driving that crashed into a personal watercraft on which Youngberg rode.
THE BOAT CRASH
The driver of the personal watercraft, Robby Jerovsek, was killed in the crash.
Another passenger on the personal watercraft, Kaitlin VanDam, was also injured in the crash. Youngberg lost her leg.
Jerovsek, the son of Jack and Sue Jerovsek of Spring Lake, was 15 when he died in the crash.
McKeough was piloting a 27-foot Master Craft speedboat, with several friends on board.
Early on the evening of Sept. 5, 2009, the speedboat overtook, and then ran over the personal watercraft.
Jerovsek died at the scene. Youngberg and VanDam were rescued by other boaters in the area and taken to the hospital.
The first lawsuit was filed just over a year ago, then withdrawn by VanDam, said Kurt Killman, attorney for the McKeoughs.
A second lawsuit was settled earlier this week.
In that lawsuit, Jack Jerovsek sued on behalf of his son's estate against McKeough's parents, Michael and Nina McKeough, who owned the boat.
The settlement calls for Robby Jerovsek's estate to receive $350,000 from the McKeoughs' insurance company and $175,000 from the insurance company for the Youngbergs, owners of the personal watercraft.
Closing arguments in the second federal lawsuit, pitting the Youngbergs against the McKeoughs and the Jerovseks, concluded at noon Friday.
“This is the last lawsuit,” Killman said. “It’s finally done.”
McKeough had already admitted responsibility, so the jury had only to determine what percentage of the blame lay on him, and what, if any, was Jerovsek’s fault, Killman said.
Mark Goudy, attorney for the Youngbergs, started his closing in silence, showing pictures of the boat, the Sea Doo, the boat prop and an X-ray of Youngberg’s leg.
He detailed medical expenses, noting that the cost of prosthetic legs, physical therapy and training, and medication would likely cost her between $2.3 million and $3.3 million over the next 60 years, the amount of life expectancy she has based on current tables, Goudy said.
“That’s just the economic loss,” Goudy said.
He told the jury that Alexis will be in pain for the rest of her life.
“It’s not likely to get any better,” he said.
Goudy said she can’t be fixed, but she can be helped.
“I suggest to you it’s worth at least as much as the medical expenses,” he told the jury.
While acknowledging that Jack McKeough was primarily at fault, Goudy pushed for the jury to also find Robby at fault for not getting the Sea Doo out of the way of the oncoming speedboat.
Mark Verwys, attorney for the Jerovseks, said that in the 12 seconds before the collision, the McKeough boat was more than two football fields behind the Sea Doo, and that it was not reasonable for Robby to have felt in danger, considering it was his friend driving the boat.
The jury agreed with the Jerovseks’ attorney and found that the boy and his family were not negligent in this case.
After the closings, Killman noted that additional claims against Mike and Nina McKeough had been dismissed Thursday due to lack of evidence.
"There are no winners," Sue Jerovsek, Robby's mother, said after the jury's decision Friday.