Product Liability

Rhino’s fundamental design flaws form basis of more lawsuits

Two more lawsuits have been filed against Yamaha Motor Co. for injuries sustained in Rhino rollovers. One lawsuit was filed by a woman on behalf of her son, a minor who was injured in March 2008 when the Rhino he was riding in flipped. The other suit was filed by a man who received serious injuries when the Rhino he was driving rolled over in May 2007. Both plaintiffs are residents of West Virginia.

Both lawsuits allege that Yamaha Rhinos have fundamental design flaws such as a high center of gravity, narrow track width, and narrow wheels, which make the vehicles highly unstable. The problematic design, combined with a lack of safety features that would help contain passengers and their limbs inside the vehicle, make riding in a Rhino exceptionally dangerous.

Yamaha warns consumers that Rhinos are susceptible to roll over if driven aggressively and on uneven ground. Most lawsuits, however, are filed by victims and their families who allege that the vehicles turned over on flat ground and at a low speed. Yamaha also advised drivers to keep their limbs inside the vehicle in the event of a rollover, yet Rhinos lack the necessary features to make doing so possible.

Both of the West Virginia complaints assert that injuries caused by the Rhino accidents led to medical expenses and lost wages in addition to permanent physical impairment, pain, mental anguish, and a loss in quality of life.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) responded to all of the complaints against Rhino by launching an investigation last year. The agency found that the vehicles to be unreasonably dangerous and urged consumers to avoid driving their Rhinos until the appropriate safety upgrades were made by a local dealer.

The CPSC and Yamaha jointly announced the “voluntary repair program,” effectively a recall, on March 31. Safety critics applaud Yamaha’s willingness to add safety features to all vehicles sold since 2003, but say that the company still needs to address the Rhino’s fundamental safety flaws.