After five hours of deliberation, a jury in Montgomery, Alabama returned a $3.3 million verdict against Yamaha for its wanton conduct in the design, manufacture, marketing, and sale of the Yamaha Rhino Model 660 UTV vehicle. A finding of wantonness means that Yamaha acted or failed to act with a conscious and reckless disregard for the safety of its consumers, knowing that grievous injury was likely to result.
The plaintiff in the case, represented by Levin Papantonio attorneys Fred Levin, Cameron Stephenson, and Aaron Watson, alleged that she sustained grievous injury when her Yamaha Rhino Model 660 overturned on top of her, crushing her when she tried to make a right turn on flat terrain at a slow speed.
The overwhelming evidence against Yamaha proved that shortly after the Rhino Model 660 UTV vehicle went onto the market, consumers and even dealers began receiving reports that users were experiencing overturns while traveling at slow speeds on flat terrain. Rather than recall the vehicle, Yamaha continued to sell the vehicle putting profits over safety as the number of reported injuries continued to increase. Moreover, despite the fact that the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) threatened to make a preliminary determination that the vehicle should be classified as a Hazard A, Yamaha continued to sell,denying any wrongdoing. A Hazard A classification is assigned where it is determined that a defect is substantially likely to cause injury or death.
“The jury’s verdict confirmed what we knew all along. Once Yamaha knew that there was a problem with this machine, they should have immediately stopped selling and corrected the problem. They did nothing. That is what this case was all about,” said plaintiff’s attorney Aaron Watson.
In finding for the plaintiff, the jury sent a clear message to Yamaha that the public will not tolerate their blatant disregard for safety. The $3.3 million dollar verdict is the largest to date in the Yamaha Rhino national litigation.
Farron Cousins is the executive editor of The Trial Lawyer Magazine.