Two national law firms have filed a class-action lawsuit in Minnesota against Polaris, the manufacturer of several popular models of recreational off-road vehicles (ROVs). The suit alleges that several of the models from the Ranger and RZR lines have design defects that lead to the vehicles overheating and catching fire. According to the lawsuit, the design defect has resulted in more than 250 fires, at least 30 severe injuries, and at least three deaths.
There are three primary product liability theories:
1) That the product had a manufacturing defect, meaning that this was defective because of poor-quality materials or poor-quality craftsmanship;
2) That the product had a design defect, meaning that the flaw was a result of design and had nothing to do with the manufacturing process; and,
3) Failure to warn, meaning that the manufacturer knew of the danger and failed to advise consumers.
Each of these claims falls under the umbrella of negligence, which requires a showing that the defendant owed a duty of care to the plaintiff, that the defendant breached that duty of care, that the breach was the actual and proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury, and that the plaintiff suffered actual measurable injury as a result. In this situation, the plaintiffs are arguing that the ROVs have a design defect: the engine is situated too close to flammable plastic panels and there is no heat shielding and no ventilation to reduce the possibility of fire.
Georgia is a modified comparative negligence state, meaning that the defendant in this matter could try and defend any products liability claim by pointing to the actions of the plaintiff, and arguing that those actions were negligent as well and contributed to the plaintiff’s injury. For example, said Parian, let’s assume that the only way to generate the sort of heat necessary to cause the plastic panels to ignite is to leave the throttle on the engine wide open for 15 minutes. If running the engine in this manner is not common practice or not what the vehicle was intended for or designed for, the defendant may be able to argue that the plaintiff is partly responsible for his own injuries. In Georgia, if the defendant can prove that the plaintiff was more than 50 percent responsible for those injuries, they can avoid liability altogether.
The key is competent counsel. An experienced lawyer will guide you through all of these possible pitfalls and help you every step of the way.