Utility vehicles are used in many rural and suburban areas for transportation and recreation, with families trusting manufacturers to keep their loved ones safe while riding on these devices. However, there are currently several hundred individual lawsuits pending against manufacturer Yamaha for their Rhino ATV product that is the “poster child” for instability and rollovers under normal usage; resulting in serious crush injuries.
These several hundred cases filed against Yamaha, relating to injuries suffered as a result of the Rhino’s instability. These cases are currently pending in federal court in Kentucky, as well as in state courts in California and Georgia. Cases filed in federal court have now been transferred to a multidistrict litigation (MDL) system which is designed to deal with large numbers of individual lawsuits regarding a specific defective product or disaster.
Currently, work is being done to prepare a number of cases for trials later this year. These cases are known as “bellwether cases” and the trials will be conducted by the MDL judge in Kentucky as a way of resolving issues common to all cases currently filed, as well as streamlining the work that will need to be done by other federal judges to whom individual lawsuits will be referred for trial settings once the MDL’s work is complete. Judge Jennifer B. Coffman is in charge of the MDL and has scheduled a number of trials this year and next, so it is doubtful that the other cases pending in the MDL will be ripe for remands to local federal courts for quite some time.
Yamaha and its retailers are currently defending themselves in these cases with the argument that the vehicles have been misused and that drivers and passengers have ignored warnings and failed to exercise common sense while driving. We have previously written about the Rhino and why the claims of the manufacturer that consumers “misused” the vehicle are simply “smoke and mirrors” and a typical way for product manufacturers to try and delay resolving righteous claims.
A verdict was recently rendered by a jury in Gwinnett County, Georgia in the amount of $317,000 in favor of a plaintiff who suffered a serious leg injury after his Yamaha Rhino flipped over. A previous case in another state court was lost by the injured plaintiff. Additional cases are scheduled to be tried later this year in various state courts where the parties were able to obtain jurisdiction over the manufacturer.