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Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP | May 11, 2018

Polaris' $27 Million Civil Penalty Over Failures to Report Potential Hazards with Off-Road Vehicles Spotlights Importance of Product Safety Laws

In early April, Polaris – a popular manufacturer of recreational off-highway vehicles (ROVs) – agreed to pay a $27.25 civil penalty settlement with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) over allegations that it failed to properly report serious potential hazards and defects associated with some of its vehicles. According to federal regulators, the potential hazards involved fires, injuries, and at least one confirmed death involving RZR and Ranger ROVs.

  • RZR ROVs – CPSC officials reported that Polaris was made aware of potential defects that significantly increased risks of fires, associated with RZRs, but failed to report those potential hazards to the agency as required by law. Because vehicles could catch fire while being ridden, they posed risks not only to nearby property, but also riders and passengers. When Polaris finally did disclose potential defects and risks, they had already received nearly 200 complaints involving fires. This includes an incident resulting in the burning of over 10 acres of land, roughly a dozen burn-related injuries, and the death of a 15-year-old passenger.
  • Ranger ROVs – CPSC regulators similarly reported that although the company reported risks associated with potential Ranger defects that made heat shields on the vehicles prone to becoming loose or falling off vehicles and recalling certain 2014 Rangers, Polaris did not disclose such risks associated with 2015 models, despite having received complaints from consumers. At the time of reporting, multiple fires and injuries had already taken place, and a recall was issued in 2017.

Because the civil penalty was paid as part of a settlement, Polaris does not have to admit to fault. However, the substantial amount of money paid serves to highlight just how serious the violations were, as well as how federal regulators prioritize enforcing product safety laws that mandate timely reporting of potential defects which pose harm to innocent consumers.

Defective & Unsafe Products: Understanding Manufacturers’ Responsibilities

In their case against Polaris, CPSC officials cite the numerous fires and injuries, as well as the one reported death, associated with potential issues Polaris knew about. Many of those could and should have been prevented had the company taken appropriate steps to alert the public and report risks in a timely manner. Per product liability laws, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers which make consumer products available to the public owe consumers a duty of care. This doesn’t just apply to ensuring products are properly designed and manufactured so they are free from defects that can cause harm, but also to taking reasonable steps to alert the public when potential hazards and risks are discovered.

As the settlement shows, manufacturers can be held liable for marketing failures and violations of product safety laws, including delays in reporting potential defects and slowed responses to problems that pose the risk of injury or death. And just as these manufacturers can be held accountable by the government for not abiding by the law, they can also be held accountable in our civil justice system by any victims and families who have suffered harm and losses.

By pursuing product liability lawsuits in civil court, victims have a right to hold negligent manufacturers accountable for damages that can include their medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and more – whether that negligence stems from errors made in designing an unsafe product, manufacturing a dangerous product, or failing to alert the public to known risks.

At Spangenberg Shibley & Liber LLP, our Cleveland personal injury lawyers have decades of collective experience protecting consumers and families who have suffered injuries and losses as a result of defective and unsafe products. Backed by a nationally recognized team of trial lawyers, our firm is available to help victims hold manufacturers accountable for unforgivable failures and acts of negligence, including those involving defective automobiles and recreational off-road vehicles.

If you have a potential product liability case to discuss, including any case involving a Polaris ROV, do not hesitate to reach out for proven legal representation. Call (216) 600-0114 to speak with an attorney from our team during a FREE and confidential consultation.