Daniel Perez v. Yamaha Motor Corporation USA (West Palm Beach, FL)
On June 9, 2011, a Florida state court determined that Yamaha Motor Corporation USA was responsible for a 2005 WaveRunner accident near Currie Park that killed the plaintiff’s 14 year-old daughter Jaysell Perez and gravely injured then 15 year-old teenager, Samantha Archer. The jury awarded the plaintiffs $35 million. $19 million went to the parents of Jaysell Perez and $16 million went to 21-year old Samantha Archer, who was 15 at the time of the accident.
On May 5, 2011, Ivonne and Daniel Perez, parents of Jaysell Perez, walked to the Palm Beach County courtroom to begin Day 1 of their 6-week trial against Yamaha with millions of dollars at stake and the memory of their 14 year-old daughter, Jaysell, on their minds.
Attorney Robert Baker (Baker & Zimmerman) asked the jury to remember throughout the case that two subsidiaries of Yamaha of Japan, Yamaha Motor Corporation USA and Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation, “buried their heads in the sand like ostriches instead of listening to their engineers” warn them about design defects inherent in the product that later killed 14 year-old Jaysell Perez and injured then 15 year-old Samantha Archer. Robert Baker accused Yamaha Motor Corporation USA of failing to correct steering problems with the water scooter and failing to warn users of its foreseeable and known hazards.
Baker emphasized the years it took Yamaha to figure out how to make sure that its operators could steer its WaveRunner when the throttle was released (off-throttle steering). Jaysell Perez and Samantha Archer plowed into a boat after Samatha Perez took her hand off of the throttle to turn the water scooter.
Representing the defendants, Richard Mueller (Thompson Coburn), said that this case was about “two inexperienced children who were let loose illegally on the waterways during a holiday weekend.” He portrayed Samantha Archer as someone who was negligent in her use of the WaveRunner. According to Mr. Mueller, Samantha Archer failed to release the vehicle’s throttle and also failed to look in front of her while steering the water scooter to avoid the collision. He stated that the steering apparatus on the WaveRunner was not defective in its design, and therefore was not responsible for the death of Jaysell Perez or the injuries suffered by Samantha Archer.
David Kleinberg (Neufeld, Kleinberg & Pinkiert) and Eric Ansel (Ansel, Bunsic & Miller) appeared on behalf of the plaintiffs and Carl Pesce (Thompson Coburn) and Scott Sarason (Thompson Coburn) appeared on behalf of the defendant.
Over six weeks, extensive expert testimony from both sides was presented, along with the testimony from the corporate heads of Yamaha of Japan and its subsidiaries. Gavel-to-gavel coverage is available from Courtroom View Network.