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Thank you for your question.
This really depends on the type of boat you have and how the boat was returned to you. For instance, if your boat does not have an auto bilge pump, and was being repaired in a dry dock (which I assume it was since the drain plug was removed), then it would be negligent to leave the drain plug in. What if it rained while the boat was out of the water and the drain plug was left in with no bilge pump? That would cause the boat to fill up with water. However, it is arguable that the shop should have returned the boat to you in a useable condition, meaning that the drain plug should have been replaced if it came in that way. However, it is also arguable that the first thing on the checklist before putting the boat in the water is to check to make sure that the drain plug is in. This would make checking the drain plug the owner's responsibility in the first instance and make recovery in a lawsuit for any damage caused as a result very difficult.
There is no precedence on this issue in California.
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Thanks and let me know if you wish to discuss this further.
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