Yamaha Rhino Victims in West Virginia File LawsuitsApr 27, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Yamaha Motor Corp. USA has been hit with two lawsuits in West Virginia over the Rhino off-road vehicle. Late last month, Yamaha recalled over 146,000 Rhinos in order to correct defects that made them susceptible to deadly rollover accidents.
While off-road vehicles are involved in hundreds of accidents every year, the Yamaha Rhino is even more likely to be involved in one particular type of mishap - rollover accidents. Critics 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.
The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) opened an investigation into the Rhino last year. As a result of that probe, in March Yamaha announced a recall of all Rhino 450, 660 and 700 models distributed since fall of 2003. Under the recall, Yamaha will repair the vehicles free of charge. These repairs include the installation of a spacer on the rear wheels as well as the removal of the rear anti-sway bar to help reduce the chance of rollover and improve vehicle handling, and continued installation of half doors and additional passenger handholds where these features have not been previously installed to help keep occupants’ arms and legs inside the vehicle during a rollover and reduce injuries. The company is also extending a free helmet offer to owners of the affected Yamaha Rhinos.
The Yamaha's Rhino's problems have resulted in hundreds of lawsuits. Two of the most recent were filed in West Virginia. One lawsuit, was brought by Teresa Urban on behalf of her minor son, who is identified in the complaint only as B.U. Urban says her son was seriously injured when the Yamaha Rhino on which he was riding on March 2, 2008, rolled over.
The second lawsuit was filed by Erik Morris, who also claims to have been injured on May 28, 2007, when his Rhino rolled over.
Both lawsuits claim Yamaha knew of the Rhino's rollover problems, but failed to act appropriately. As we've reported previously, in September 2006 Yamaha Motor Corp. sent a letter to the owners of the vehicles warning that the Rhino was prone to tip while going through sharp turns. However, the wording of the Yamaha letter seemed to place much of the blame for Rhino rollover accident injuries on the victims themselves. In 2007, Yamaha offered to modify the vehicles free of charge. These modifications included the addition of doors to the vehicle, as well as additional handholds.
Both plaintiffs claim they incurred medical costs, were permanently impaired and suffered a great reduction in their quality of life. They also lost wages and suffered pain and mental anguish, according to the complaint. The lawsuits are seeking unspecified compensatory, special and punitive damages, plus costs and other relief the court deems just.