Yamaha Rhino Product Liability Trials to Begin October 2010
June 8, 2010 -- Product liability trials for the Yamaha Rhino, a utility terrain vehicle (UTV) with a rap sheet of safety concerns and a history of causing injuries to users, are set to begin in October of 2010. Product liability cases against Yamaha have been consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) that is being handled by U.S. District Judge Jennifer Coffman of the Western District of Kentucky. MDL is designed to speed the handling process of many similar, complex cases by analyzing pre-trial proceedings in one court and then remanding cases to their original courts for trial.
Pending Lawsuits Allege Rhino Defectively Designed
The lawsuits filed against Yamaha over the Rhino UTV generally allege that the Rhino is defectively designed, making it prone to roll over even when traveling at very low speeds on flat terrain. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) utilizes a calculation called the Static Stability Factor (SSF) to assess a vehicle's resistance to rollover. The Rhino design has an SSF of 0.88--one of the lowest SSF's ever measured--making it one of the most unstable vehicles ever sold.
Many injuries and deaths blamed on the Rhino involve children who have become pinned under the vehicle after it has rolled over. Earlier versions of the Rhino, first introduced in 2003, did not have safety features that kept occupants inside of the vehicle.
Rhino Lawsuits Case Groups
Rhino lawsuits in the MDL have been divided into the following case groups:
- Case Group 1: Lawsuits added to the MDL on or before May 22, 2009. The first trial from this group is scheduled to begin on October 18, 2010.
- Case Group 2: This group includes lawsuits that were filed between May 22, 2009 and July 31, 2009. Trial of the first lawsuit from Case Group 2 was originally set to begin in September 2010 (subject to change).
- Case Group 3: Includes lawsuits that are filed between July 31, 2009 and October 31, 2009. First trial from Case Group 3 was set to begin December 2010 (subject to change).
While Yamaha settled several of the early rollover lawsuits, as the number of claims have grown, they indicated an intention to defend the cases at trial.
Yamaha Taking Cases to Trial--Verdict in Texas Rhino Rollover Case
In August, a Texas state court jury found that Yamaha was not liable for the death of a 13 year-old boy in a wrongful death suit filed by his parents. In that case, the jury decision was based on individual circumstances of that accident, including that the teenage boy was driving a modified Rhino and his father had testified that he was not wearing a helmet when the vehicle rolled.