Product Liability

West Virginia couple sues Yamaha dealership

A West Virginia couple has filed a lawsuit in their state court against the Yamaha dealership who sold them a Rhino 450 in May of 2007. According to the complaint, the couple bought a Rhino model not equipped with passenger doors and handholds. Just a few weeks later, in August, Yamaha Motor Co. offered to install aftermarket doors and handholds on any unequipped Rhinos free of charge in what was effectively the first Yamaha Rhino safety “recall.” When the couple contacted their dealer in September to have the upgrades installed, the dealer told them that an appointment wasn’t possible.

The dealer told the couple that it would call them back when it had time to perform the safety repairs. Yamaha designed the new safety enhancements to prevent and minimize injury during a rollover. Rhinos are notoriously narrow and unstable vehicles, and every year people become maimed or killed when their Rhinos roll over because there is little, if anything, to prevent one’s head, arms, and legs from protruding during a rollover.

Which is just what happened to the West Virginia couple while they were waiting for a call from their Rhino dealership. In October 2007, the male was driving the Rhino. When the vehicle started to topple, the driver reacted by sticking his leg out to prevent a full-scale rollover. Although his reaction was a natural one, it did not prevent the Rhino from rolling over and crushing the driver’s leg. He now suffers from severe and permanent injuries.

Last month Yamaha and the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a “voluntary repair program” which effectively recalled all Rhino 450, 660, and 700 models for safety upgrades. Yamaha Motor Corp. agreed to install passenger doors, hand grips, and rear wheel spacers on Rhinos already sold. Additionally, the manufacturer plans to remove the rear anti-sway bar on the vehicles, which will give them more stability.

Yamaha headquarters also told its dealerships to discontinue Rhino sales until all safety upgrades were made. While so many repairs are being performed on showroom Rhinos for sale, many dealerships have little time to perform recall repairs.