Cases & Deals

Yamaha prevails in jury trial involving Rhino SxS vehicle

Client(s) Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.

After a three month trial in the Orange County Superior Court, Complex Division, a jury returned a defense verdict on behalf of Jones Day client Yamaha Motor Co. in a "bellwether" case involving the Yamaha Rhino SxS vehicle. The jury rejected plaintiff's claims that defects in the Rhino's design and deficiencies in its warnings were responsible for the Rhino's rollover that resulted in plaintiff's injuries. Jones Day represented the three Yamaha entities and Yamaha dealer sued by the plaintiff.

Plaintiff claimed approximately $200,000 in medical damages, and past and future pain and suffering for leg injuries he sustained after the Rhino in which he was a passenger rolled over (the Rhino was being driven by plaintiff's 14-year-old son). Plaintiff further alleged that Yamaha's conduct in the design and sale of the product had been so egregious as to justify awarding punitive damages against Yamaha. Plaintiff asked the jury to return a verdict of "seven figures" or more.

Despite plaintiff's claim that the accident occurred during a gentle U-turn at slow speed on flat ground, the evidence at trial (including 27 company witnesses who testified on behalf of Yamaha) showed that the Rhino, when used responsibly according to its safety recommendations and instructions, is a safe and useful off-road vehicle. Despite the efforts of plaintiff's law firm, the jury rejected plaintiff's claims that a defect in the vehicle caused the accident and instead concluded that plaintiff's injuries were caused by misuse and the occupants' failure to use the vehicle as it was intended to be used.

Jones Day leads Yamaha's defense of Rhino cases and claims pending nationwide, including the California coordinated proceeding in which the Swainston matter was tried.

Swainston v. Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A., et al., JCCP No. 4561 (Superior Court of California, County of Orange - Civil Complex Center); Case No. SC093137 (Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles)