Perez v. Yamaha. West Palm Beach, Florida - Yamaha, manufacturer of the popular WaveRunner watercraft, is facing potentially millions of dollars in damages in a wrongful death trial that began last week in Palm Beach County Court and is being webcast live on Courtroom View Network.
Jaysell Perez died, and Samantha Archer suffered severe injuries, in March 2005, after their WaveRunner watercraft collided with another boat on the Intracoastal Waterway. Attorneys for the plaintiffs claim Yamaha is liable for marketing a defective product. The model of watercraft and the steering device in question were later discontinued.
David Kleinberg of Neufeld, Kleinberg & Pinkiert, told the jury that defect was directly responsible for the fatal collision. Upon seeing the boat, Archer reduced the throttle to avoid it, which then kept her from being able to steer the watercraft. "The girls turned right in front of a boat. You know why?" said Kleinberg, "They couldn't steer."
Yamaha later repaired and replaced the steering defect, but according to Robert Baker of Baker & Zimmerman, it was too late. "Unfortunately, it did not happen in time to help the Perez family or Samantha Archer, who suffered catastrophic injuries," Baker said.
Yamaha's attorney, Rick Mueller of Thompson Coburn, acknowledged the stakes in this trial are high. "They will ask for millions and millions and millions and millions of dollars," he said.
Yamaha claims Archer and Perez lied about their age, as well as their being properly trained to operate a watercraft. "Sadly and regrettably, an underage, unlicensed, untrained and inexperienced young girl was out in an environment, a very congested waterway. That's why the accident happened," said Mueller.
But Archer's attorney claimed regardless of age or experience, the WaveRunner was dangerous. "She did exactly what is intuitive and exactly what Yamaha said they were going to do." Yamaha will argue the craft's instruction manual told operators how to reduce throttle speed without losing steering ability.
The trial is scheduled to last for at least one month and will feature extensive expert witness testimony from both sides.
CVN is webcasting live video of the full trial.