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Two More Yamaha Rhino Victims Sue Over Injuries

Nov 11, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

The Yamaha Rhino utility terrain vehicle (UTV) is the subject of two more personal injury lawsuits.  Plaintiffs in both lawsuits allege that the Yamaha Rhino contains multiple design flaws rendering it dangerously unstable and unduly prone to tipping and rolling over.

Just last week, it was learned that federal safety officials were investigating the Yamaha Rhino, which has been linked to 30 deaths.   The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) decision to investigate the Yamaha Rhino was based on  accident and death reports involving the vehicle, as wells as the high number of product liability suits - at least 200 - filed by people who claim they were injured by the Rhino.

Unfortunately, the CPSC has not set safety standards for vehicles like the Rhino, which it classifies as a utility terrain vehicle, or UTV.  Another class of off-roaders, all terrain vehicles (ATVs),  are subject to safety standards. Vehicles like the Rhino aren’t classified as ATV because of design differences such as having a steering wheel, in contrast to the ATVs’ handlebars. But neither are vehicles such as the Rhino subject to the much-tougher standards for cars.

While off-road vehicles are involved in hundreds of accidents every year, critics say the Yamaha Rhino ATV is even more likely to be involved in one particular type of mishap - rollover accidents.  They charge that the Yamaha Rhino is top heavy, and it has tires that are extremely narrow. These design defects make it far more likely that the Yamaha Rhino will tip and rollover while going through a turn, even when the vehicle is traveling at a slow speed and is on a flat surface. Furthermore, the Yamaha Rhino is designed in such a way that passengers’ legs are unprotected in the event of a rollover accident.

Victims of Yamaha Rhino rollover accidents usually experience broken or crushed legs, ankles or feet. In some cases, victims have been permanently disabled, and have had limbs amputated following a Yamaha Rhino rollover accident. When Yamaha Rhino rollover accidents involve children, the results are often fatal.

Last week, the parents of an 11-year-old Tennessee girl filed suit in federal court in Nashville against Yamaha Motor Corp. for the injuries she sustained as a result of the Rhino's alleged defects..  On June 10, 2005, the girl was riding as a passenger in a Rhino when during normal operation the vehicle tipped over onto the passenger side. She suffered severe injuries to her knee, arm, foot and ankle, requiring surgery and the amputation of four toes on her right foot.

"We hope the lawsuit will lead Yamaha to acknowledge its legal responsibility to injured riders and make the Rhino a safe vehicle," the girls mother said in a statement announcing the family's Yamaha Rhino lawsuit.

A second personal injury lawsuit was also filed in Georgia state court by a 47-year-old man who said he sustained catastrophic injuries as a result of the Yamaha Rhino.  According to the Georgia lawsuit, the plaintiff sustained his injuries on August 17, 2007, when the Rhino he was driving tipped over at a low rate of speed. The plaintiff sustained numerous fractures, dislocations, and lacerations, and was stranded alone for over six hours before rescue.  The severity of the plaintiff's  injuries necessitated the amputation of one-third of his left foot.  The lawsuit also states that the victim has had to undergo numerous surgeries, continues to suffer severe and persistent pain and is at risk for early onset of arthritis.

In a statement announcing the Georgia Yamaha Rhino lawsuit, the attorney representing the injured man said Yamaha Rhino must address the Rhino's stability problems. "Yamaha has made no design changes to improve the stability or handling of the Yamaha Rhino, in spite of the availability of safe and inexpensive alternative designs and feasible modifications," the lawyer said.



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