Congratulations to David Kleinberg (lead trial counsel), Alan Neufeld, Robert Pinkiert, Jason Neufeld and paralegal Sara Gutierrez on this fantastic team effort/victory for their client and all victims of the dangerous Yamaha WaveRunner. This true marathon of a trial lasted from April 29 – June 10, over 7 weeks. Fortunately, from time to time, right defeats might. This is one of those times.
The case and trial are perhaps best described in this summary by David himself:
The case involved a beautiful 15 year old girl who used her “Uncle’s” Yamaha Waverunner XL800 at his waterfront home. It was her first time as a driver of a [wave runner]. She took her 14 year-old best friend on the ride which lasted less than 15 minutes. She was running parallel to a 31′ open ocean racing boat on her right. As she began a right U-turn to head home, she felt close to the [race] boat so she let off the throttle to continue her U-turn at a lower speed. But the moment she did, the PWC (personal water craft) lost all steering ability. This is the defect, off throttle steering (OTS).
Over the next 0.4 seconds the boat not only delivered massive blunt trauma, but the stainless steel propellers the two engines slashed through the girls. The 14 year old passenger died in the water of overwhelming blood loss. The 15 year-old driver was saved, only to spend the next three months clinging to life as specialists performed dozens of procedures to rebuild her damaged body. In addition to blunt injuries to her internal organs, she suffered unspeakable degloving injuries from the low back to the knees along with horribly displaced fractures to the shoulder, hips, pelvis, and knee.
The excellent work of the trauma team only masked the real injury to her brain and soul. She was diagnosed with an organic Traumatic Brain Injury due to the combination of blunt trauma, blood loss and near-drowning/respiratory failure. She never finished high school. She [now] cannot hold a job. She has struggled with substance abuse, and demonstrates dangerous impulsivity and violence.
On liability, the team overcame the daunting task of facing the “CSI-MIAMI” defense team of original design engineers, reconstruction engineers, forensic specialists, human factors experts, and naval architects assembled by Yamaha over twenty years of defending these cases, without a loss.
The jury found the XL800 WaveRunner defective in both design and warnings. The “defective jet-ski” verdict echoed through the industry.
Senior Vice President