In what was described as a test for similar cases pending in Gwinnett County, Georgia, a State Court jury awarded $317,002 to a north Georgia couple last month to compensate them for injuries caused when the husband’s leg was trapped under his Yamaha off-road vehicle. This case is one of the first to reach a verdict among product liability cases filed and pending against Yamaha in the U.S. and Canada alleging defects in its Rhino-model recreational-utility vehicle.
Roger McTaggart, a resident of Blue Ridge, Georgia, was injured in a 2007 accident. He was driving his Rhino, stopped the vehicle, and then started going forward again. He then turned the steering wheel to the right, and the Rhino tipped onto the driver’s side, trapping his leg under the vehicle. McTaggart sustained a “crush” injury in which the “skin exploded” and bone was exposed. The area where the incident occurred was “an uneven, relatively flat, grassy area,” according to the Complaint. Yamaha’s lawyers disputed that description.
McTaggart and his wife, Glenda, sued three separate Yamaha corporate entities in Gwinnett County State Court. Among their claims, they contended that the Yamaha Rhino should have included a barrier to contain a rider’s legs inside the vehicle. Although Plaintiffs in cases filed against Yamaha in other courts have said that there are problems with the Rhino’s stability which cause the vehicle to roll over, that contention was not made in this case.
After a two-week trial, the jury awarded $317,002 to the Plaintiffs. The award consisted of pain-and-suffering damages, medical expenses, lost wages, future lost wages and loss of consortium for Mrs. McTaggart. The jury did not award punitive damages. The jury felt it was significant that Yamaha had not performed any testing on the Rhino specific to occupant containment. The jury believed that was something the company should have tested. Had they done so, the company would have known this was a danger a lot of people would run into.
Andy Childers of the Atlanta firm of Childers, Schlueter & Smith, along with Bob Blanchard, Troy Rafferty and Kimberly R. Lambert from the Pensacola, Florida, firm Levin, Papantonio, represented the Plaintiffs. Other cases are pending against Yamaha in federal court and in the Superior Court of Orange County, California. There is also a consolidated case in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky.
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