Yamaha Motor Co. has won another round in its battle to stave off lawsuits involving rollover crashes of its Rhino off-road vehicles.

A 12-member jury in Montgomery County, Ala., unanimously cleared Yamaha of responsibility for injuries sustained by Jacklyn McMahon when her Rhino rolled over in July, 2007.  McMahon, then 47, suffered two broken arms and a serious foot injury when the 1,100-pound vehicle landed on top of her. Her lawsuit claimed the Rhino was dangerously unstable.

Yamaha defended the Rhino’s design and blamed the accident on aggressive driving and McMahon’s failure to wear a seat belt. The jury’s verdict, which capped a three-week trial, was returned Friday.

“The jury’s unanimous defense verdict in the McMahon trial again demonstrates that juries are not buying plaintiffs’ allegations about the Rhino’s handling, stability and crash-worthiness,” Paul Cereghini, a lawyer for Yamaha, said in a statement. “These verdicts are further proof that the Rhino is a safe and defect-free vehicle.”

Kim Lambert, one of the lawyers for McMahon, called the verdict disappointing and said that no decision had been made on whether to appeal.

Six Rhino cases have now been tried to verdicts, with Yamaha victorious in all but one. However, as FairWarning reported last month, the Japanese company and its top American subsidiaries, Yamaha Motor Corp. USA and Yamaha Motor Manufacturing Corp. of America, still face about 700 lawsuits stemming from deaths and injuries in Yamaha rollovers. More than 40 other cases have been settled on confidential terms.

Introduced in the fall of 2003, the Rhino pioneered a new category of off-road vehicles known as ROVs (recreational off-highway vehicles), or side-by-sides, because they have seating for two.

In March, 2009, under pressure from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Yamaha announced a what it called a free repair program allowing owners to bring in their Rhinos for safety improvements.

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