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Steering Defect to Blame in $25 Million WaveRunner Verdict

The Daily Business Review reports in the case of Perez v. Yamaha Motor Corp. that a Palm Beach jury awarded two victims of a WaveRunner accident $25 Million against Yamaha Motor Corp, claiming product liability. On Easter weekend 2005, Jaysell Perez, 14 and her best friend, Samantha Archer, 15, borrowed a Yamaha WaveRunner scooter from a family friend. Archer approached a boat in the Intracoastal Waterway near Currie Park in West Palm Beach and took her hand off the throttle to begin a turn but instead of turning, the WaveRunner collided with the 30-foot boat. Perez died in the collision and Archer suffered severe injuries. The families filed separate lawsuits and the cases were combined for a single trial.

The plaintiffs claimed that Yamaha knew of steering problems but failed to provide a proper warning or redesign. From 1986-2000, owner's manuals warned beginners were likely to release the throttle when headed toward an obstacle. In 2001, the warning was removed--the girls rode a 2001 model. Yahama did not redesign its water scooter to address the steering issue until 2003. The jury was asked two design defect questions--whether the design is unreasonably dangerous to the ordinary consumer and whether the defect was the direct cause of the accident.

Jurors deliverated almost two days and approtioned 88 percent liability to Yamaha and 10 percent liability to Nicolette Archer, Samantha's mother, for giving the girls permission to use the WaveRunner. Samantha Archer and Holly were each apportioned 1 percent liability, reducing the $39.8 million jury award. The plaintiffs are expected to file motions for attorney's fees and costs and Yamaha is expected to appeal.

If you have any questions regarding any aspect of this verdict, please feel free to contact me at miamipandi@comcast.net, motero@houckanderson.com or via LinkedIn at

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