Texas Yamaha Rhino Lawsuit Results in Defense Verdict

A Texas jury has found that Yamaha Motor Corp. is not liable for the death of a 13-year-old boy in a Yamaha Rhino wrongful death lawsuit filed over fatal injuries suffered in a rollover accident, which the plaintiffs had contended were caused by design defects in the side-by-side ATV.

After about two hours of deliberation on August 27, a jury in Orange County, Texas, ruled in favor of Yamaha in a product liability case brought by the parents of Forest “Eddie” Ray, who was 13 years-old when he died in September 2007 while operating the off-road vehicle.

The case was the first of about 500 pending Yamaha Rhino lawsuits to go to trial, but the jury finding will not be binding in any other cases. The jury decision was based on the individual circumstances of this case, including the fact that Ray was only 13 years old while driving the ATV and his father testified that he was not wearing a helmet when the vehicle flipped, crushing him.

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Since it was first introduced in 2003, problems with the Yamaha Rhino have been linked to hundreds of ATV rollover accidents throughout the United States, often resulting in serious or fatal injuries. While Yamaha has maintained that there is nothing defective about the design, earlier this year they temporarily halted Rhino sales and agreed to make free safety modifications to about 145,000 Rhino ATVs already on the market.

The Rhino modifications were made following pressure from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), which has indicated that the vehicles can rollover even at low speeds on level terrain.

Plaintiffs in other cases will continue to push forward against Yamaha, claiming that the manufacturer cut corners to save costs and sold a vehicle with a defective design that makes it prone to rollover. Despite the verdict, Yamaha Rhino lawyers are continuing to pursue claims for plaintiffs, arguing that the evidence establishes that the manufacturer cut corners to save costs during the design of the vehicle, and sold an ATV that is prone to rollover and lacks many safety features.

All federal lawsuits over Yamaha Rhino accidents are currently consolidated for pretrial litigation in an MDL, or Multidistrict Litigation, before U.S. District Judge Jennifer B. Coffman in the Western District of Kentucky. The current scheduling order calls for the first federal Yamaha Rhino trial to begin in June 2010.

Image Credit: 2008 Yamaha Rhino 700

8 Comments

  • eddieJanuary 12, 2011 at 6:06 pm

    william.the same thing happened to me and a friend we were on leval ground wet grass actually.stoped to turn into barn to put it up I was 45yrs old at time and have owned several motorcycles.when we turned and gave it some gas turning left the right front tire rolledover so much the rim dug into the ground rolling us over on the pass side of vehicle my friend 38 yrs old suffered a laseration on t[Show More]william.the same thing happened to me and a friend we were on leval ground wet grass actually.stoped to turn into barn to put it up I was 45yrs old at time and have owned several motorcycles.when we turned and gave it some gas turning left the right front tire rolledover so much the rim dug into the ground rolling us over on the pass side of vehicle my friend 38 yrs old suffered a laseration on the right side of head taking 9 staples to closse the wound and it broke his seat.I flew out the top landing on my back causing sevier brusing and muscle damage we were going ten miles per hr.this was in 2005 i hope something was done to keep people from Under estimating how slow you can go to get seariously hurt on a rhino

  • WilliamJanuary 1, 2011 at 12:15 pm

    Christopher you preach and preach on responsibility. What of all the people that have rolled over and been hurt following the safety guidelines. What of the people that were hurt before they had safety guidelines. The first recall Yamaha did on the rhino was to add the safety stickers and warnings. At the time these people lost their child, there were no safety guidelines. You want the parents to [Show More]Christopher you preach and preach on responsibility. What of all the people that have rolled over and been hurt following the safety guidelines. What of the people that were hurt before they had safety guidelines. The first recall Yamaha did on the rhino was to add the safety stickers and warnings. At the time these people lost their child, there were no safety guidelines. You want the parents to be responsible but your failing to see that they are. They have/are suffering for the loss of their child. You want Yamaha to sit with squeaky clean hands while the parents take all the blame. Children CAN NOT be treated as porcelain put up on a shelf. The way you people go on about this, children should be on a 2 foot leash until they are eighteen. As a parent you have to let them out from under your wing. A multi-billion dollar corporation should have the means to make sure their product is safe. For WHATEVER reason someone is on the thing, it should do what it is advertised to do. The parents have their part of the blame but so does yamaha. The parents suffer for this accident every day, what about Yamaha. I spent my childhood on 4-wheelers 3-wheelers and dirtbikes. I grew up and started riding street bikes. I was on a slightly rocky red clay road. We came to a complete stop and turned around to the left to go the other direction. Coming from a stand still accelerating slowly the rhino tipped over to the passenger side anyway. I was the passenger. Even though I was wearing my seat belt my leg went out the side of the vehicle and the rhino landed on my leg just above my ankle. It broke my ankle and severed the ligaments and tendons in my ankle. As an adhd child I broke "alot" of bones as a child. I have never before, and, never again felt pain like what I felt that day. I have been riding for a long time and understand full well what these vehicles should be capable of. So for you and every other redneck that wants to criticize people, especially people that have just lost a child; Keep Riding, by all means please.

  • ChristopherJune 5, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    "Parents don't know how dangerous they are when they buy them" BS I have yet to see an ATV or UTV that did not CLEARLY have a warning that you could be seriously injured or killed while riding it. If you then choose to go ahead and ride it and you get injured or killed, then you accepted that risk knowing it was a possibity. Afterall, you can live through life just fine without ever riding in a [Show More]"Parents don't know how dangerous they are when they buy them" BS I have yet to see an ATV or UTV that did not CLEARLY have a warning that you could be seriously injured or killed while riding it. If you then choose to go ahead and ride it and you get injured or killed, then you accepted that risk knowing it was a possibity. Afterall, you can live through life just fine without ever riding in a rhino, getting in it and riding it is a risk you willingly take. Just like going swimming, you can swim and accept that it is possible you may drown, or choose not to swim and eliminate that chance. But if you DO swim and then drown, it is ridiculous to sue the pool manufacturer because actions you took eliminated yourself. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY needs to be ressurected in America before it is too late .. . . ..

  • ChristopherJune 5, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    Give me a break George. Excuses excuses excuses is all you spew. It ABSOLUTELY. comes down to the parents on this one. They don't know the danger when they buy one? What????? If they cared they would make it their business to research before buying, but common sense should tell anyone a 13 year old shouldn't be in control of 40 or more horsepower, and further I bet it says in the owners manual the[Show More]Give me a break George. Excuses excuses excuses is all you spew. It ABSOLUTELY. comes down to the parents on this one. They don't know the danger when they buy one? What????? If they cared they would make it their business to research before buying, but common sense should tell anyone a 13 year old shouldn't be in control of 40 or more horsepower, and further I bet it says in the owners manual there is a chance of rollover, moving ahead with the purchase and ignoring warnings in my world means you accept the risk.. Kids riding them and their parents don't know?????? LOL that AGAIN comes back to parenting. I guess. In your world yamaha is liable for kids doing things they are not supposed to be doing. Kid goes and steals one, crashes and dies, but the parents didn't know he was doing it so that makes it OK and at the same time lands responsibility on the maker for selling it. Never mind that the maker also didn't know and didn't condone it either. Ridiculous. Get real. I am so tired of crybaby people like you who refuse to make people accountable for their own actions.

  • GeorgeJanuary 25, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    I understand that these cases must stand on their individual merit, but these vehicles are inherently dangerous. The only way to improve them is to hold the manufacturers accountable because they are aware of the problems. It's not about "standing up to the lawyers" but standing up to corporations who make dangerous vehicles. It's also not about making parents responsible...sometimes kids are rid[Show More]I understand that these cases must stand on their individual merit, but these vehicles are inherently dangerous. The only way to improve them is to hold the manufacturers accountable because they are aware of the problems. It's not about "standing up to the lawyers" but standing up to corporations who make dangerous vehicles. It's also not about making parents responsible...sometimes kids are riding these things and the parents have no knowledge. Parents also don't know how dangerous they are when they buy them for their children. Dannielle, just remember, when you send an email to a public forum like this, and condemn the parents of a dead child, you are passing judgment without knowledge of all of the facts. When you do this, you show utter disrespect for these parents who probably still are grieving for their child. Norman sat thru the trial, so I appreciate his comments, but you did not. So be careful about heaping condemnation on these grieving parents.

  • DannielleSeptember 1, 2009 at 3:52 am

    it's about time someone stood up for facts instead of the free lotto mentality so prevalent today in courtrooms across the US. where were this child's parents while he was out joyridig without any safety gearin a mdified vehicle? PARENTS stop acting as if the world is your babysitter and you are entitled to something for your irresponsible actions. I'm sorry your child died but you could have p[Show More]it's about time someone stood up for facts instead of the free lotto mentality so prevalent today in courtrooms across the US. where were this child's parents while he was out joyridig without any safety gearin a mdified vehicle? PARENTS stop acting as if the world is your babysitter and you are entitled to something for your irresponsible actions. I'm sorry your child died but you could have prevented this.

  • S.E.August 29, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    I just want to THANK YOU for your service, and for the decision you and your fellow jurors made. Not only was your decision at this trial important, but I feel that it will be an important decision for future trials as well. As a Rhino owner, and motorsports enthusiast, I have been waiting a long time for someone to stand up to the lawyers and let everyone know that there IS such a thing as "per[Show More]I just want to THANK YOU for your service, and for the decision you and your fellow jurors made. Not only was your decision at this trial important, but I feel that it will be an important decision for future trials as well. As a Rhino owner, and motorsports enthusiast, I have been waiting a long time for someone to stand up to the lawyers and let everyone know that there IS such a thing as "personal responsibility".

  • NormanAugust 28, 2009 at 9:02 pm

    I was on this Jury. The verdict was not solely based by his age. He was not wearing a helmet, he wasn't wear a seat belt and drivng on a public road. The Yamaha "Ray" Rhino was not a "stock unit" it had aftermarket tires, lightbar and stereo which added to weight of the heavy vechicle. The CPSC requested that Yamaha add 2" (100mm) spacers to each side of the rear tires and removal of the anti-sw[Show More]I was on this Jury. The verdict was not solely based by his age. He was not wearing a helmet, he wasn't wear a seat belt and drivng on a public road. The Yamaha "Ray" Rhino was not a "stock unit" it had aftermarket tires, lightbar and stereo which added to weight of the heavy vechicle. The CPSC requested that Yamaha add 2" (100mm) spacers to each side of the rear tires and removal of the anti-sway bar. With the aftermarket tires that the "Ray Rhino" had, it exceeded the CPSC recommended modification.

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