A jury has decided in favor of Yamaha in the first of several civil suits the manufacturer faces.

A panel of eight men and five women in Orange, Texas, found Yamaha not responsible for the 2007 death of 13-year-old Forest Ray in a Rhino rollover. The case of Ray v. Yamaha Motor Corp. USA opened Aug. 18 and ended Aug. 27.

The plaintiffs, Ray’s parents, contended the Yamaha Rhino was “defectively designed” and prone to rollovers at low speeds.

Yamaha argued the Rhino was safe when used correctly. Intended for off-road use, the side-by-side is only recommended for adult drivers 16 and older while passengers must be large enough to keep their backs against the seat backs with both feet firmly on the floorboard. Yamaha says drivers and passengers should wear helmets and the Rhino’s three-point seat belts during operation.

Yamaha says the Rhino is designed for off-road use by adults, and that helmets and seatbelts should be worn when operating the side-by-side.Yamaha says the Rhino is designed for off-road use by adults, and that helmets and seatbelts should be worn when operating the side-by-side.

The accident occurred as Ray made a turn from grass onto a paved road. Yamaha argued Ray was not wearing either a helmet or seatbelt and was unsupervised during the accident.

After about two hours of deliberation, the jury agreed with Yamaha, ruling the Rhino was not to blame for Ray’s death.

“The jury made a decision based on the facts,” says Yamaha spokesperson Van Holmes. “The testimony and evidence during the trial showed that this tragic accident had nothing to do with the design of the product. Yamaha’s top priority is and always has been the safety of our customers, and we pride ourselves on the safety and quality of our products.”

The ruling was good news for Yamaha, but the manufacturer still faces about 500 legal cases. The result of Ray v. Yamaha Motor Corp. USA may indicate how those other cases may proceed. Yamaha is likely to maintain a similar strategy in future cases.

“Yamaha stands firmly behind the Rhino as a safe and useful off-road vehicle and will continue to vigorously defend the product,” says Holmes.

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