Cases & Deals

Yamaha prevails in Georgia Supreme Court after certiorari is denied and Yamaha's reversal of adverse jury verdict stands

Client(s) Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd.

On April 24, 2012, the Georgia Supreme Court denied the plaintiff's petition for certiorari and let stand the Georgia Court of Appeals' unanimous decision reversing a jury verdict against Yamaha Motor Co. in a products liability suit involving the Rhino, an off road vehicle, and directing the trial court to enter judgment in Yamaha's favor. This is the only Georgia appellate decision to ever reverse a jury verdict for a plaintiff in a strict liability product defect case by holding that the plaintiff assumed the risk of the alleged product defect as a matter of law. Jones Day has led Yamaha's defense of lawsuits across the country involving Rhino roll-over accidents, including suits filed in Georgia. Nine Rhino cases have gone to trial, eight of which resulted in defense verdicts, including Swainston v. Yamaha, tried by a Jones Day team in Orange County, California, earlier this year. In May 2010, a Jones Day team tried the case of McTaggart v. Yamaha in Gwinnett County, Georgia, which resulted in a $317,000 verdict in plaintiff's favor.

At the time, the plaintiff's counsel heralded the verdict as a successful test case, showing that such cases could be won before a jury. However, the Georgia Court of Appeals has now agreed with Yamaha that the McTaggart case should never have reached a jury. Based on Mr. McTaggart's admissions during his cross-examination at trial, the Court found that he had assumed the risk of his specific injury as a matter of law. After quoting Mr. McTaggart's testimony at length, the Court wrote: "having considered the evidence, we conclude that the trial court erred by denying Yamaha's motions for directed verdict and JNOV . . .. Given the evidence in this case, the only conclusion that can be reached is that this is a case in which it is plain, palpable and indisputable that Roger [McTaggart] assumed the risk of his injuries as a matter of law. Accordingly, the judgment must be reversed and the case remanded to the trial court with direction to enter judgment granting Yamaha's motion for a directed verdict."

McTaggart v. Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A., No. 08C-18950-2 (State Ct., Gwinnett Cty., Ga.); Appeal No. A11A1022 (Ga. App.)