Yamaha Motor Corp. has lost a lawsuit filed against the company by a plaintiff who received extensive leg injuries when his Rhino ATV flipped, pinning him underneath. The case marks the first time a jury has awarded damages to a plaintiff for injuries sustained in a Rhino accident.
The Georgia State Court jury awarded the plaintiff $371,002 to compensate for pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, lost future wages, and loss of consortium. The case is one of dozens of other such cases filed against Yamaha in Gwinnett County, Georgia, where the company’s registered agent for the United States is located.
According to the complaint, the victim brought his Rhino to a stop and then began moving the vehicle forward as he turned the steering wheel right, “and the Rhino tipped onto the driver’s side, trapping his leg under the vehicle.” The weight of the vehicle crushed the plaintiff’s leg, shredding his skin while smashing and exposing his bone.
The case was considered a pivotal one in the legal community because it tested the viability of several other lawsuits filed against Yamaha in the same county. The jury’s verdict indicates that plaintiffs with cases involving similar or worse injuries will likely receive compensation, especially those cases filed in Gwinnett County.
The trial lasted two weeks and the jury deliberated for 10 hours before reaching its verdict. According to some reports, one of the jury’s biggest concerns was that Yamaha never tested its Rhinos for “occupant containment.” Had the company conducted such tests, it would have seen the problem, the jury believed. Almost all serious injuries on Yamaha Rhinos occur during rollovers when the limbs of the vehicle’s occupants protrude from the vehicle.
Drivers and passengers experience a higher rate of injury and death in Rhinos than in other recreational off-road vehicles (ROVs) and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs). Consumer and safety advocates assert Rhinos are dangerous because of their design flaws, including a narrow, top-heavy stance that makes the vehicle prone to roll over, even while when traveling across even surfaces at a low rate of speed.
Yamaha issued a statement after the verdict, saying that the company “is disappointed by the jury’s decision to find for the plaintiff in this case and will pursue all appropriate legal remedies, including possible appeal.”