After a series of recalls related to potential fire hazards on their all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), Polaris now faces a class-action lawsuit filed by a group of consumers in April 2018. The consumers come from three different states and are seeking class-action status to represent the thousands of vehicle owners that have been put at risk by these allegedly defective vehicles.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis and seeks to represent about 300,000 Polaris owners of vehicles manufactured from 2011 to 2018.
Plaintiffs Claim Polaris Vehicles Still Defective Even After Recalls
Representative plaintiffs James Bruner, Michael Zeeck and Ed Beattie allege in their complaint that the Ranger and RZR lines of Polaris off-road vehicles have a design defect that poses a significant and dangerous fire risk. They specifically name several vehicles, including RZRs and Rangers, all of which have been recalled at various times for fire hazards.
The plaintiffs claim that the recalls did not address the root problem creating the fire hazards, and have not provided an adequate remedy for owners. At issue is the high-powered “ProStar” engine which is located behind the occupant compartment, allegedly far too close to combustible plastic parts and vehicle occupants. The plaintiffs allege the engines do not have proper heat shielding or venting, and therefore poses a fire hazard to riders.
Polaris is facing other lawsuits as well, filed by plaintiffs who were burned or otherwise injured by their vehicles. Some have already been settled out of court, and others are still pending.
Polaris Plagued by a Number of Defects and Recalls
According to the Star Tribune, as of April 2017, Polaris had gone through 12 rounds of recall notices affecting 338,800 vehicles. Most of these recalls involved defects that could lead to an increased risk of overheating and fires, presenting a burn hazard to consumers. In addition, there have been reports of 247 fires, three deaths, and 30 burns and other injuries over just a two-year period.
In April 2018, Polaris implemented yet another recall involving about 107,000 Polaris RZR XP 1000s. The issue again was fire related. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) stated that if the “exhaust silencer fatigues and cracks, the heat shield may not manage heat, which may lead to melting of nearby components or fire.”
At the time of the recall, Polaris had received 30 reports of cracked exhaust silencers, including three reports of fire.
CPSC Fines Polaris $27 Million for Failing to Report Safety Hazards in a Timely Manner
This new lawsuit comes on the heels of a civil penalty levied by the CPSC against Polaris for failing to immediately report to the commission defects that could create safety hazards. On April 2, 2018, the CPSC announced that Polaris had agreed to pay a $27.25 million civil penalty, settling charges that they had been too slow to report issues to the commission, particularly issues related to the RZR and Ranger off-road vehicles.
The CPSC went on to note that despite knowing that RZRs could catch fire while consumers were driving them, Polaris didn’t immediately notify the CPSC as required by law. By the time they did report the risk, the company had received reports of 150 fires, including one that resulted in the death of a 15-year-old passenger, and 11 burn injuries, as well as a fire that consumed 10 acres of land.
Exclusively focused on representing plaintiffs, especially in mass tort litigation, Eric Chaffin prides himself on providing unsurpassed professional legal services in pursuit of the specific goals of his clients and their families. Both his work and his cases have been featured in the national press, including on ABC’s Good Morning America.