Ray v. Yamaha Motors et al., Orange County District Court, August 2009
A jury in Orange County, Texas absolved Yamaha Motor Corporation of any liability in the design of its Yamaha Rhino off-road vehicle after a two-week trial. The case was brought by a local Orange family after 13-year-old Foerst Edward “Eddie” Ray died in a rollover accident while operating a Rhino without parental supervision.
Plaintiffs alleged the Rhino was defectively designed because its height, narrow track width and lack of a rear differential made the vehicle unstable and susceptible to rolling over. In support of their design defect allegations, Plaintiffs cited a March 31, 2009 press release from the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) indicating that Yamaha agreed to a “voluntary repair” for the Rhino in which the rear track width was widened and the rear stabilizer bar was removed.
In his closing arguments, Jeff Hawkins of Prichard, Hawkins, McFarland & Young argued the Rhino is a safe vehicle when it is used in a reasonable fashion, and the Plaintiffs had ample opportunity to avoid this accident. Hawkins argued if Eddie were supervised, had been wearing a helmet or using the vehicle’s available seat belt, this accident would not have had such a tragic ending.
After two weeks of evidence, it took the jury a little more than an hour to decide the Yamaha Rhino was not defectively designed. Yamaha was represented by David Prichard and Jeff Hawkins of Prichard, Hawkins, McFarland & Young. Plaintiffs were represented by Tim Maloney and Troy Rafferty of Levin, Papantonio of Pensacola, Florida.
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