Injured woman's suit alleges ATV unfit for intended use

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Jun. 18, 2009, 6:16am

TEXARKANA, Texas – Injured while riding as a passenger on a Yamaha Rhino ATV, Krissi Henry alleges the vehicle was defective and unfit for its intended use and has filed suit against Yamaha.

Krissi and Jason Henry filed suit against Yamaha Motor Corporation, Yamaha Manufacturing, and Yamaha Motor Company on June 17, 2009 in the Texarkana Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

According to the lawsuit, the ATV was being operated on relatively flat terrain when it "rolled over toward the passenger side." Henry injured her right leg.

Causes of action filed against the defendants include strict liability, negligence, and breach of implied and express warranties.

"The Yamaha Rhino ATV was placed in the stream of commerce in a defective condition, unreasonably dangerous to the users thereof, and not fit for its intended use and reasonably foreseeable purposes," the complaint alleges.

The plaintiffs allege that the defendants are negligent for failure to provide adequate warnings and safe operating instructions.

The Henry's are seeking damages for health care expenses, physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical disability and impairment, disfigurement, lost wages, loss of wage earning capacity, loss of consortium, loss of household services, pre and post-judgment interest.

According to the court documents, since the Yamaha Rhinos entered the United States market in 2003, over 120,000 have been sold.

With many lawsuits pending in federal courts across the country, the cases involving the Yamaha Rhino are being consolidated into a multidistrict litigation pending in the Louisville division of the Western District of Kentucky (mdl-2016).

Most of the lawsuits against the Yamaha Rhino argue that the Rhino has a narrow track width and a high center of gravity, which decreases the vehicle's stability. Further, those lawsuits allege 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. Yamaha updated its owner's manuals in July 2007 with regard to the rollover risks.

In August 2007, in an effort to increase safety, 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.

In early 2009, Yamaha in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the voluntary suspension of the sale of some model Rhinos until safety issues were addressed and repairs made.

"Yamaha's repair includes the installation of a spacer on the rear wheels as well as the removal of the rear anti-sway bar to help reduce the chance of rollover and improve vehicle handling, and continued installation of half doors and additional passenger handholds where these features have not been previously installed to help keep occupants' arms and legs inside the vehicle during a rollover and reduce injuries," the news release states.

With similar lawsuits and allegations, Yamaha has denied that the Rhino is defective. Further, Yamaha states that the plaintiffs were in negligent operation and/or maintenance of the off road vehicle and believes those actions were a superseding cause of the accident.

"The subject side-by-side off road vehicle was designed, manufactured, marketed, distributed, and sold in compliance with all applicable standards, codes, regulations, and state of the art," Yamaha maintains in court documents.

Texarkana attorneys David L. James and Paul Miller of the law firm Miller, James, Miller and Hornsby LLP are representing the plaintiffs.

The plaintiffs are demanding a jury trial

U.S. District Judge David Folsom is assigned to the litigation.

Case No 5:09-cv-00087

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