Did Silent Recall By Yamaha Lead To Rider Being Paralyzed?

The deadlier side of riding and the hazards of cutting-edge technology is playing out in the Texas courts as Yamaha’s FZ-09 rides center stage.

A Texas man is suing Yamaha Motor Co. claiming a defective motorcycle throttle that was the subject of a safety alert to dealers but not to owners resulted in his paralyzing injuries. We would ask readers to note, the following is information and views are given by the law firm representing the motorcyclist in the lawsuit.

According to the press release, Isaac De Lua-Ruiz, 36, of Corpus Christi, was thrown off the 2014 FZ-09 Yamaha motorcycle on January 16, 2016, after it "suddenly and without warning went into an uncontrolled and harsh acceleration" as he made a slow turn in a parking lot, according to the lawsuit filed July 25 in Nueces County District Court, Lua-Ruiz vs. Yamaha, Cause No. 2016DCV-3698-A.

Lua-Ruiz was thrown onto a raised cement edge, which broke his spine resulting in paralysis from the waist down, said his attorney, Billy Edwards, of the Edwards Law Firm in Corpus Christi, Texas.

"Yamaha knew the throttle on the 2014 FZ-09 was defective and carried a risk of sudden, unintended acceleration, yet did not warn owners and riders,” Edwards alleges. “Instead, it issued a 'silent recall,' instructing dealers to repair the problem only if owners complained. As a result, the father of two young children is now paralyzed, and Yamaha must be held accountable."

Isaac De Lua-Ruiz, rendered a paraplegic in a crash caused by a defective throttle on his Yamaha motorcycle, undergoes rehabilitation. The defect and a repair was disclosed to dealers but not to owners, according to his lawsuit.

Yamaha Aware of Throttle Dangers

The Yamaha FZ-09 is a popular midsize street bike. According to the lawsuit, the 2014 model was the first FZ-09 to use Yamaha's throttle-by-wire computer-based technology to calculate throttle response instead of the throttle being controlled by the operator via a mechanical cable.

Buyers immediately began complaining about the bike's "twitchy throttle response," "jerky throttle response," and" surging at slow speeds," according to the lawsuit.

As a result, Yamaha altered the computer software in the 2015 model FZ-09 specifically to smooth out the throttle response and provide better control of the motorcycle, according to the suit. At no time did Yamaha attempt to notify owners of the 2014 FZ-09 of this serious safety issue or the availability of a repair, the lawsuit noted. 

In a September 2014 Technical Bulletin about the 2014 FZ-09 sent to dealers worldwide, Yamaha noted "When certain model units are operated between 18 and 37 mph in 1st or 2nd gear, the rider may experience a non-linear transition between closed to ¼ open throttle." The bulletin further advised dealers to "modify only those units that experience this condition," the lawsuit noted.

"Non-linear transition is a technical term for 'uncontrolled,'" Edwards said. "You give the bike some throttle and it could either glide you forward or explode under you, you can't count on the bike doing what you need it to do. It's a crap shoot that can kill you."

Dealership Failed to Advise Owner

In fact, a previous owner of the motorcycle had taken the bike into a Yamaha dealership in response to a 2014 recall involving headlamps, and the dealership did not advise him of the availability of the new software related to the throttle risk, the lawsuit noted.

"The notice sent out to 5,300 owners about the FZ-09's headlamps could easily have alerted owners to the throttle defect and the availability of a repair, but the company and dealership obviously chose to keep quiet. Isaac and his family will pay for that decision forever," Edwards said.

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