|VIDEO| The Crucial Evidence That Set Up $7M Verdict in Yamaha Rollover Trial

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Mar 6, 2024 2:00:56 PM

Excerpts from Frank Bayuk's opening at trial against Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation of North America.

February’s $7 million verdict against Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation of America for the injuries a Georgia toddler suffered in a golf car rollover crash was keyed by powerful video intended to undermine a central defense in the case, an attorney for the child’s family told CVN. Hall, et al. v. Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation of North America, 20-A-1696. 

“I think it was the most important piece of evidence for the jury, the most impactful,” Bayuk Pratt’s Frank Bayuk told CVN of video showing a stock-model Yamaha G29 "Drive" golf car crashing in conditions similar to those that caused a heavily modified 2013-model “Drive” to roll over in the wreck that injured the child. 

That 2018 crash occurred as the child’s father, Brooks Hall, was driving the vehicle, often called a golf cart, downhill. As he braked for a car turning in front of him, the golf car fishtailed, then flipped, dragging the child, with the vehicle’s weight on top of her. The girl, then three, was left with severe scarring along her head and body. 

The child's family contends the golf car’s rear, two-wheel, braking system rendered it defective and caused the crash. Yamaha counters that Hall’s driving, and importantly, after-market modifications that made the vehicle bigger, heavier, and faster, caused the wreck.

And those modifications made the golf car look vastly different from its stock appearance, which could resonate powerfully with jurors. 

“We knew that it would be a huge defense point,” Bayuk said of the extensive after-market mods. “[We thought it would be] one which the defense would hammer over and over, which they did, and which is to say: Here’s this kind of meek innocent-looking vehicle we make, designed for use on a golf course, and here’s this highly modified monster truck-looking vehicle that is nothing like we make.”


To anticipate and blunt the impact of the stark difference in the vehicles’ appearance, Bayuk featured side-by-side photos of the modified car and the stock vehicle in his opening, telling jurors that their superficial appearance didn’t matter because the rear-braking system, which was not visible in the photos, was the same on each. 

And perhaps critically, he illustrated that point in openings by introducing jurors to video of testing performed on the the stock “Drive,” showing it wreck in similar conditions to the rollover at the heart of the case.

“You all have heard the expression, a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, if that’s true, a video is worth a million,” Bayuk said when introducing the crash video. 

Meanwhile, video of another test of a “Drive,” with front brakes added, showed the vehicle did not crash. “This is what happens if Yamaha had made this cheap and simple fix to its golf cars, knowing again that people drive in this exact scenario,” Bayuk said. “This is what would have happened and none of you all would need to be here because there would not have been a rollover.”

Bayuk also told jurors they would be able to examine the modified golf car, as well as a stock model, in person. While that viewing had been allowed based on a defense request, Bayuk said his team pushed to have it conducted during the plaintiff’s case-in-chief. That way “we could portray the message that we weren’t trying to hide this,” Bayuk said. 

“We weren’t scared with how these things appear differently, because the real problem is underneath,” Bayuk told CVN after the verdict. “The real problem is that, no matter how the vehicle looks, because of how the brakes are designed, it will roll over in the right circumstances, regardless of modifications.” 

Jurors ultimately handed down a $7 million verdict in the case, apportioning 51% of fault to Yamaha; 44% to Hall; and 5% to Colton Isyk, who had modified the golf car. However, Bayuk said the award will not be reduced because Yamaha was the only defendant at trial and the pre-2022 version of Georgia’s apportionment statute applied to the case.

After the verdict, Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial’s Carol Michel, who represents Yamaha, told CVN the defense is considering all options moving forward in the case.  

“On behalf of Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation of America, we were disappointed with the verdict and are carefully reviewing the record of the trial and considering the available post-trial and appellate options,” Michel said. 

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Topics: Products Liability, Georgia, Hall, et al. v. Yamaha