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PHOENIX, AZ—On November 29, 2011, after a two day bench trial to address whether Arizona's two-year statute of limitations barred plaintiff's suit, a judge in the Maricopa County Superior Court, Phoenix, Arizona found in favor of Yamaha in a case involving a 2004 Yamaha Rhino 660.
The case involved 16-year-old Matthew Robles, who on December 4, 2004, sustained a leg injury while riding as a passenger in a 2004 Yamaha Rhino 660. Mr. Robles turned 18 on January 28, 2006, and by Arizona law, had two-years to file his personal injury lawsuit. Like most jurisdictions, Arizona has a "discovery rule" that tolls the statute of limitations "until the plaintiff knows, or within reasonable diligence, should know the facts underlying the cause for his injury."
Mr. Robles claimed that he did not realize he might have a cause of action until the fall of 2009 when he saw a television commercial from the Goldberg & Osborne law firm soliciting potential clients injured in Rhino incidents. Mr. Robles contacted Goldberg & Osborne and eventually filed his Complaint on August 11, 2010.
After a two day bench trial, the Court found for Yamaha, concluding that at the time of his incident, "sufficient facts existed for Plaintiff to determine that he might have had a case against Yamaha," and that the Plaintiff "had a duty to timely investigate whether the design of the Yamaha Rhino may have been causally related to his injuries." Further, the Court stated that Plaintiff presented "no legitimate, justifiable, or equitable reasons for failing to investigate with due diligence." For these reasons, the Court found that Plaintiff failed to satisfy his burden that the statute of limitations was tolled, and that Yamaha was the prevailing party as the statute of limitations had run.
Yamaha’s lead counsel, Paul Cereghini, of the national product liability defense firm, Bowman and Brooke LLP, commented on the verdict:
"Anyone who is thinking about bringing a time barred claim should take note of this verdict. This case didn't make it past Yamaha's statute of limitations defense. All this plaintiff will see from this lawsuit is an adverse cost award that he should have to pay.
With this verdict, and with the Georgia Court of Appeals November 15, 2011 decision in the McTaggart v. Yamaha matter, Yamaha is now 10-0 in Rhino cases that have gone to trial. This stellar record sends a clear message that Yamaha will aggressively and successfully defend these cases, whether they are time barred or not. When they are time barred, like here, the plaintiff is really grasping at straws."
Paul Lee, also of Bowman and Brooke LLP, who tried the case on behalf of Yamaha, said that:
"Plaintiffs have an affirmative duty to investigate, and not wait until plaintiffs' lawyers start running TV advertisements. The Court got it right when it found that Plaintiff's "view that the cause of action does not accrue until the potential plaintiff knows or should know from the public domain that there is a possible defect of the product would render all such statutes of limitations virtually meaningless." "
Plaintiff was represented by John E. Osborn, William C. Bacon and Kristin J. Schriner of Goldberg & Osborn in Tucson, Arizona.
Yamaha was represented by Paul G. Cereghini and Paul R. Lee of Bowman and Brooke in Phoenix, Arizona.
Matthew Robles, Plaintiff vs. Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A., Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation of America, Yamaha Motor Co., Ltd., and YSA Motorsports, LLC, Maricopa County Superior Court, State of Arizona, Case No. CV2010-023571, before the Honorable Michael Herrod.
Paul G. Cereghini is a Bowman and Brooke executive managing partner. He can be reached at 602.643.2400 or at email@example.com.
Paul R. Lee is a partner at Bowman and Brooke. He can be reached at 602.643.2418 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.