Earlier this month, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals decided a case in favor of a woman whose husband was killed when a gun in his friend’s possession accidentally discharged. The court’s opinion in the case, O’Neal v. Remington Arms Company, held that the plaintiff submitted enough proof of negligence on the part of the gun manufacturer for the case to proceed towards trial.
The Facts of the Case
According to the court’s written opinion, Remington used a “Walker trigger” in weapons dating back to 1971. At some point between then and now, Remington was made aware that there was a potential defect in the trigger mechanism, and that the gun may fire when the safety is turned off, even though the trigger was not pulled. Remington, knowing this, did not recall the roughly 20,000 rifles affected by the potential hazard and allowed them to remain for sale and in the market.
In 2008, the plaintiff’s husband went hunting with some friends. He loaned his Remington rifle to one of his friends. At some point on the hunting trip, the friend pulled the rifle out when he spotted a deer, and the gun accidentally discharged, killing O’Neal. O’Neal’s wife filed suit against Remington for the negligent design of the trigger mechanism.
At trial, Remington attempted to avoid liability by arguing that there was no proof that the gun was defective when it left their control. Remington submitted evidence that the gun had gone through several owners and had been loaned out several times. The trial court agreed with Remington and dismissed the case. The plaintiff appealed.
The appellate court hearing the case disagreed with the lower court and reversed its judgment. The court explained that while it is the plaintiff’s duty to prove that the gun was not altered after it left the manufacturer’s control, there was circumstantial evidence showing just that.
First, the court noted that nothing in the police reports of the incident indicated that there was an aftermarket trigger installed on the gun. However, the police reports did indicate when other aftermarket parts were used. This led the court to infer that had the mechanism been replaced, it would have been noted in police paperwork. Second, the court explained that any aftermarket part that would have been installed on the gun would have been installed to prevent the very accident that occurred here. That being the case, the court felt comfortable holding that there was sufficient circumstantial evidence that the trigger mechanism was as it was when it left Remington’s control.
Have You Been Injured by a Faulty Product?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured due to a dangerous or defective product, you may be entitled to monetary damages. In almost all products liability actions, as was the case above, the manufacturer will attempt to evade liability by any means possible. Therefore, you should be prepared for a fight and should retain dedicated counsel of your own. Call 888-532-7766 today to set up a free consultation with an experienced and passionate Indiana personal injury attorney.
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