Suit alleges Yamaha 'Rhino' ATV unreasonably dangerous

By Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau | Sep 3, 2008

TEXARKANA - While driving his Yamaha Rhino 660 all terrain vehicle on a gravel parking lot, Levi McDermott was injured when the ATV tipped over and trapped his left leg under the vehicle, court papers say.

Alleging the ATV was unreasonably dangerous, McDermott filed suit against Yamaha USA, Yamaha Manufacturing, Yamaha Motor and Momentum Motorsports on Aug. 26 in the Texarkana division of the Eastern District of Texas.

The suit alleges that the defendants should have known that the Rhino "created life-threatening conditions and situations, including the Rhino's tendency to roll over in slow-speed turns on flat surfaces."

The lawsuit alleges that the ATV is defective from a center of gravity that is too high, is too top heavy and has tires that are too small. In addition, the complaint argues the ATV would be safer if the manufacturers would have added diagonal bars, doors or handles, which would have offered consumers additional protection.

McDermott states that at the time of his purchase of the Rhino, there were other side-by-sides that did not pose the same risks that the Rhino posed.

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.

Last August, 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.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages for medical expenses, physical pain and suffering, physical disability and impairment, lost capacity to enjoy life, loss of wages and earning capacity, mental anguish, and fear.

The suit alleges causes of action that include strict liability, product liability, and negligence, breach of warranties, fraud, concealment, and misrepresentation.

The plaintiff is represented by San Antonio attorney Tim Maloney and Pensacola, Fla., attorneys Troy A. Rafferty and Kimberly R. Lambert of the law firm Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Eshsner and Proctor PA.

Judge David Folsom is assigned to the litigation.

Case No. 5:2008cv00148

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