Yamaha Off-Road Vehicle Battles Rollover Lawsuits

Since its introduction in 2003, hundreds of serious injuries and related deaths have been blamed on the Yamaha Rhino recreational off-highway vehicle or ROV. Described as a golf cart on steroids, consumers have found the vehicles unstable even at very low speeds with a tendency to rollover, despite the splash it first made when the Yamaha Rhino was introduced into the market.

Yamaha is facing hundreds of lawsuits by victims who say the basic design flaw of the vehicle has led to rollover accidents, limb loss, and death when riders fell under the force of the 1,100 pound machine. Even a vice president of Yamaha was injured when he took one out for a test ride.

Fair Warning reports that so far Yamaha has been victorious in four the five cases that have gone to court. However in May, Yamaha lost a case in Georgia. And there are a reported 700 wrongful death and injury claims in the pipeline. This does not take into account at least 40 cases that have been quietly settled.

Also not in Yamaha’s favor is the fact that the company did not add doors until the 2008 model year. Without doors, the top-heavy vehicle with high clearance and a narrow base has rolled with riders extending their legs and arms to brace themselves in the fall.

Yamaha says the Rhino is safe and well-designed, and that injuries invariably resulted from risky operators. “Virtually every Rhino-related incident involves at least one warned against behavior (such as failure to wear a seatbelt and/or helmet, underage driver, excessive speed, alcohol/drugs or inattention to terrain/collision).”

That’s what Yamaha says. We’ll soon see if juries in three venues, Orange County, California, Gwinnett County, Georgia, and the Western District of Kentucky agree.