Snell & Wilmer Defends Yamaha Rhino in Nevada Trial

Snell & Wilmer attorneys Dan Rodman and Morgan Petrelli recently represented Yamaha Motor Corporation, U.S.A. in the trial of a 2006 Yamaha Rhino rollover lawsuit in the Eighth Judicial District Court of Nevada (Case No. A709850) in Las Vegas, Nevada. Paralegal Jorge Moreno assisted with Yamaha’s defense.

Plaintiff suffered a comminuted fracture of her right leg when the 2006 Yamaha Rhino she was riding in overturned on a dirt and gravel path in Sandy Valley, Nevada. Plaintiff claimed she instinctively put her right foot and leg out of the Rhino when it began to overturn, where her leg was crushed between the Rhino and the ground. As a result of her fracture, Plaintiff underwent three surgeries, was hospitalized for over a month, and nearly had to have her leg amputated.

Plaintiff claimed that the 2006 Yamaha Rhino was defective and negligently designed because it rolled over too easily on flat ground during a low speed turn, and that it should have been equipped with doors to prevent Plaintiff from putting her leg out. Plaintiff presented evidence that, prior to the accident, Yamaha had initiated a voluntary repair program to widen the track width of the Rhino (arguably to make it more stable) and to add doors, but the Rhino in which Plaintiff was riding had not had these repairs made to it.

The Yamaha defense team moved the court to exclude the Plaintiff’s liability expert, who would have testified about alleged defects in the Rhino. Next, after the close of Plaintiff’s case, Yamaha moved to have the strict products liability claim dismissed, leaving only the negligent design claim for the jury’s consideration. To respond to Plaintiff’s claim that the rollover occurred as the result of a slow, easy turn, Yamaha presented evidence from several medical personnel who attended to Plaintiff the night of her injury, who testified that she had told them the accident happened while the driver of the Rhino was “doing donuts” at 30-35 mph, and that she was not wearing her seatbelt. Yamaha also presented evidence that the Rhino was a safe and stable vehicle, even without the widened track width and doors.