Texas woman sues Rhino for rollover as plaintiffs seek MDL

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Jan. 28, 2009, 5:26pm

MARSHALL – More than four years ago, Vicki Joyce's child was injured when the Yamaha 660 Rhino she was in, rolled over and pinned her legs underneath it. Joyce joins one of many new lawsuits alleging the Rhino ATV is defective and unreasonably dangerous.

Joyce states that the "Yamaha Rhino is excessively prone to tip over even at low speeds, on flat or slight grade terrain, and while conducting safe turns."

Vicki Joyce, individually and as next friend of minor N.J., filed the lawsuit against Yamaha Motor Corporation, Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corporation and Yamaha Motor Company on Jan 9 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants should have known that the Yamaha Rhino lacked necessary safety features and "thus posing additional risk of injury in the event of a rollover."

Joyce's suit is one of more than 50 lawsuits against Rhino pending in federal courts across the country. On Dec. 2 the existing plaintiffs filed a motion seeking to consolidate all Rhino suits into a multidistrict litigation for pre-trial proceedings.

According to the court documents, since the Yamaha Rhinos entered the United States market in 2003, over 100,000 have been sold.

The plaintiff argues that the Rhino has a narrow track width and a high center of gravity, which decreases the vehicle's stability. Further, the court documents state that the ATV is designed with a heavy, unpadded roll cage that in rollovers poses an additional danger.

In 2006, Yamaha sent letters to Rhino owners enclosing new warning labels and describing the rollover risks. "Occupants were warned that in an event of a rollover, they should not stick their arms or legs out the vehicle," the complaint states.

In August 2007, Yamaha sent out notices that it would install doors and additional passenger handholds on its Rhino's manufactured in the last four years. The upgrades are available to new or used Rhinos and installed free of charge by a Yamaha dealer.

The plaintiff alleges that the defendants are negligent for failing to exercise reasonable care for the safety of plaintiffs by negligently designing, manufacturing, marketing and selling the vehicle without the necessary safety features.

Other causes of action filed against the defendants include strict liability, breach of express and implied warranties, fraud, concealment, and misrepresentation.

The plaintiff is seeking damages for medical expenses, lost wages, and loss of earning capacity, pain and mental anguish.

Seeking punitive damages, the plaintiff argues the defendants acted "in a malicious, wanton, willful, fraudulent and reckless manner evincing such an entire want of care as to raise the presumption of a conscious indifference to the consequences."

The plaintiff is demanding a jury trial.

Marshall attorney Melissa R. Smith of the law firm Gilliam and Smith LLP and Houston attorneys Robert E. Ammons, John P. Devine and Darcy M. Douglas of The Ammons Law Firm LLP are representing the plaintiff.

U.S. District Judge T. John Ward is assigned to the litigation.

Case No 2:2009cv00010

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