Yamaha Rhino Settlement Conferences to Begin in Federal MDL

Settlement conferences are scheduled to begin in several Yamaha Rhino cases pending in the federal MDL to discuss the potential resolution of product liability lawsuits that allege design defects in the popular off-road vehicles caused riders to suffer serious and sometimes fatal injuries in ATV rollover accidents.

There are several hundred Yamaha Rhino lawsuits that have been filed throughout the United States with similar allegations that design problems with the Yamaha Rhino make the vehicle prone to rollover, even when operated at slow speeds on flat surfaces.

All federal Yamaha Rhino cases have been centralized for pretrial proceedings as part of an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, before Judge Jennifer B. Coffman in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. The first Yamaha Rhino trials in the MDL, which are known as “bellwether” cases because they are used to gauge how jurors will respond to evidence that will be presented throughout the litigation, are scheduled to begin in October 2010.

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Attorneys for both sides are scheduled to conduct a series of Yamaha Rhino settlement conferences for cases in the MDL, according to a proposed case management and scheduling order filed earlier this month. The first settlement conferences were set for the weeks of January 18 and January 25, 2010, for certain cases jointly selected from “Case Group 1,” which includes lawsuits that were added to the MDL on or before May 22, 2009. Additional rounds of settlement conferences in the Rhino cases are scheduled to occur in April 2010, July 2010, October 2010 and January 2011.

Although the Yamaha Rhino has been linked to hundreds of rollover accidents and serious injuries for riders, Yamaha has continued to defend the safety of their product. The manufacturer maintains that the Rhino is a safe and useful off-road vehicle when driven responsibly and according to the instructions and warnings contained in the on-product labels, owners manuals and other safety materials.

In August, a Texas state court jury found that Yamaha was not liable for the death of a 13 year-old boy in a Yamaha Rhino wrongful death lawsuit filed by his parents. In that case, the jury decision was based on the individual circumstances of that accident, including the fact that the teenage boy was driving a Rhino that had been modified and his father testified that he was not wearing a helmet when the vehicle flipped and crushed him.

Image Credit: 2008 Yamaha Rhino 700

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