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New lawsuits filed against Polaris in connection to ATV fires

Dee DePass, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Business News

MINNEAPOLIS -- More lawsuits claiming Polaris ATVs suddenly caught fire, resulting in injuries, have been filed in Hennepin County District Court.

The new cases involve fires that occurred this year, including one that resulted in a passenger's death. One also involved a replacement vehicle issued to an Arizona man after his original Polaris 2015 off-road RZR vehicle caught fire.

Medina-based Polaris -- a $6.1 billion maker of off-road vehicles, snowmobiles and motorcycles -- said it will not comment on individual cases, but has denied wrongdoing in court papers.

To date, plaintiffs from around the country filed at least nine lawsuits against Polaris for vehicle fires and burns. Three cases were filed in Minnesota this year, preceded by four other cases filed in 2017 and 2018. The other two are being heard in California.

All of the Minnesota cases -- and any future ones filed -- will be heard by one judge, as of now, Hennepin County District Judge Daniel Moreno. Polaris had asked for the "companionable cases" ruling because -- while details might be different -- they deal with similar questions of law and it would make the discovery process smoother.

Last week, the court agreed and dismissed one count in a lawsuit that could have set a precedent, causing that case and potentially others like it to be handled in federal court. Going forward, most cases will stay in Minnesota.

 

The first jury trial among the cases is set for May 11. It was filed in August 2017 and involves an 2017 RZR fire that resulted in Montana resident Colby Thompson suffering burns on his face and body.

A set of new fire claims, filed in 2019, come after years of Polaris four-wheeler recalls, hundreds of thousands of repairs and a thorough review of all manufacturing processes to avoid any more overheating and fire issues. Polaris spent hundreds of millions on the problems, including a nearly $28 million fine last year to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

With the most recent cases, the lawsuits involve 18 plaintiffs from eight states who claim Polaris vehicles they were riding erupted in flames not caused by an accident, crash, tip-over or other precursors. The three new lawsuits filed this year involve one 2019 RZR, one 2017 model and one 2015 model.

Polaris spokeswoman Jessica Rogers said riders' safety is the company's top priority.

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