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On November 22, 2022, after eight days of trial and 30 minutes of deliberations, a federal jury in Lake Charles, Louisiana agreed that Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. was not responsible for a boat explosion and fire that injured three men. The consolidated case, styled Gonzalez v. Yamaha Motor Corp., U.S.A. was venued in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana located in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
Plaintiffs claimed that Yamaha’s 10 micron fuel/water separating filter was defective because it purportedly corroded prematurely in a highly corrosive saltwater environment and that its own packaging and on product warnings were inadequate. Yamaha demonstrated at trial that its product was not defective and, instead, that the explosion and fire resulted from the boat owner’s lack of proper maintenance and Plaintiffs’ careless and unforeseeable decision to work on the boat’s fully-energized electrical system with actual knowledge that gas and gas vapors were present.
The case stemmed from a July 2018 incident in which Plaintiffs boarded a friend’s twin engine 2014 Sea Fox 256 Commander docked on the Calcasieu River to go fishing. Despite having replaced the vessel’s batteries, the men were unable to get its engines to run simultaneously. Accordingly, one of them began to work on its Perko switch, without first disconnecting the fully-energized batteries and despite seeing and smelling gas. In the process, he generated a spark that ignited the collecting gas vapors. The resulting explosion and flash fire knocked one of the men off the boat and seriously burned all three men.
Plaintiffs were represented by Timothy Young, Tammy Harris, Megan Misko and Joseph Marino of The Young Firm, New Orleans, LA and John P. Zelbst and David L. Butler of Zelbst, Holmes & Butler, Oklahoma City, OK.
Yamaha was represented by Frank Hosley and Don Blackwell of Bowman and Brooke, Orlando, FL; Joseph G. Glass and Laura L. Poussan of DUPLASS APLC, Metairie, LA; and Thomas M. Flanagan, Flanagan Partners LLP, New Orleans, LA.