Yamaha Rhino Rollover Lawsuit Results in $3.3M Verdict

An Alabama jury has awarded more than $3.3 million in damages to a woman who suffered severe injuries in a Yamaha Rhino rollover accident, marking one of the first major trial loses involving the controversial ATV.  

At one time, more than 300 Yamaha Rhino lawsuits were pending in state and federal courts throughout the U.S. However, the manufacturer quietly settled about 200 cases and successfully defended the safety of the Rhino ATV during most of the cases that made it to a jury.

A lawsuit brought by Jacklyn McMahon previously went to trial in 2010, resulting in a defense verdict for Yamaha. However, following appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court, McMahon was granted a new trial, which concluded last week.

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McMahon suffered injuries in a Yamaha Rhino 660 accident and accused the company of wanton conduct because it allegedly knew about problems with the ATV that had resulted in numerous accidents, but failed to correct the problems. As a result of the accident, McMahon suffered a number of broken and crushed bones and one of her feet was degloved; an injury in which all the skin, and sometimes the muscle as well, is stripped from the limb.

Following trial in the Circuit Court of Montgomery County, Alabama, the jury found that Yamaha was liable for disregarding the safety of consumers by failing to make changes to the design of the Rhino 660 ATV. The jury awarded $1,398,341.00 in compensatory and an additional $2,000,000.00 in punitive damages, which are designed to punish the ATV maker.

Shortly after the Yamaha Rhino ATV was introduced in 2003, a large number of rollover accidents involving the vehicles began to be reported. In September 2006, Yamaha warned owners about the potential risk of Rhino rollover accidents, providing information about what consumers should do if the Rhino begins to tip over. However, critics have argued that the Yamaha Rhino is an unstable, unreasonably dangerous vehicle and that the manufacturer failed to take steps that could have made the vehicles safer.

In 2009, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) launched an investigation into the vehicle after at least 46 occupant deaths were linked with the Yamaha Rhino. The CPSC then pressured Yamaha to suspend sales of the Yamaha Rhino 450, 660 and 700 models to make safety improvements.

At the height of the Yamaha Rhino litigation, all cases filed throughout the federal court system were consolidated as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, which was centralized before U.S. District Judge Jennifer B. Coffman in the Western District of Kentucky. However, after Yamaha Rhino settlements or other resolutions were reached in the vast majority of pending cases, Judge Coffman recommended the remand of the few dozen active cases remaining in the federal court system.

Image Credit: 2008 Yamaha Rhino 700

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