Another Remington Lawsuit

BY Herschel Smith
8 years, 7 months ago

Courthouse News Service:

(CN) – The Eighth Circuit revived a wrongful death claim against the Remington Arms Company stemming from a 2008 hunting accident in which a South Dakota man died.

The man’s wife, Carol O’Neal, sued Remington in December 2011, claiming a defect in a bolt action rifle the company manufactured caused it to misfire, killing her husband.

On November 9, 2008, O’Neal’s husband, Lanny, loaned a Remington Model 700 .243 caliber bolt action rifle to his friend, Mark Ritter.

Ritter later told investors that after spotting a deer, he moved the safety lever to the fire position and without his pulling the trigger, the rifle discharged. The bullet hit Lanny O’Neal, traveling through his stomach, spleen and left lung.

Despite their immediately calling 911 and getting O’Neal taken to a hospital, he died later that afternoon.

His widow claimed that Remington was aware a defect in that particular model rifle would cause it to fire without pulling the trigger once the safety lever was released.

She cited that minutes from a 1979 Remington safety subcommittee meeting, at which the defect in certain guns manufactured before 1975 was discussed and a possible recall considered. However, that meeting ended with attendees deciding against a recall because it would have required Remington to gather some 2 million guns ,when only 20,000 were known to be susceptible to the condition.

Remington argued that O’Neal couldn’t prove that the defect that caused the rifle to misfire was present at the time of it being manufactured. According to the gun maker, an alteration to the gun after purchase could have caused the misfire.

Complicating matters was that O’Neal, after being denied by two lawyers in her quest to pursue a wrongful death claim, had the gun destroyed because it reminded her of the tragedy. It wasn’t until several months later that she learned of the possible defect.

A federal court granted Remington’s motion for summary judgment, but the Eighth Circuit on Wednesday overturned that ruling, sending the case back to federal court.

In a 2-1 decision, the three-judge panel found that since South Dakota law allows a plaintiff to prove a defect through circumstantial evidence, O’Neal had presented enough circumstantial evidence to prove the defect was present at the time of manufacture.

“The fact that the subject rifle was used many times without incident from the mid-1980s through November 2008, and then suddenly inadvertently discharged, is consistent with the unpredictable manifestation of the inherent design defect in the Walker trigger,” U.S. Circuit Judge Kermit Bye wrote for the majority.

“In sharp contrast, if the subject rifle had been modified or altered prior to the mid-1980s in a way which would cause it to discharge when the safety lever was moved from the safe position to the fire position without the trigger being pulled, it is highly unlikely the rifle could have been used as many times as it was over the span of the next twenty-plus years without incident,” Bye said.

Oh dear.  This just gets worse and worse.  I’m not commenting on the gunsmithing accuracy of the court’s decision.  The problem is that Remington didn’t come clean on the Walker Fire Control System when they knew about it, they hid it, denied it, and sent their lawyers to argue with victims.

This was their destiny, and they chose it when they decided to be lawyers rather than engineers and gun manufacturers.  It was their destiny.

Other Resources:

Belk_Certification

Belk_Objection

Belk_Supplemental_Report

Prior:

Poking The Dragon

Update On The Remington 700 Settlement

Things You May Not Have Known About The Remington Walker Fire Control System


Comments

  1. On October 19, 2015 at 10:22 am, McThag said:

    Once again the PROBLEM is pointing guns at people you don’t intend to shoot!

    Mechanical defects in the firearm stop mattering right quick if you don’t point it the wrong place.

  2. On October 19, 2015 at 10:24 am, Herschel Smith said:

    The rules are based on the philosophy of “defense in depth.” Muzzle control is one of them. Trigger discipline is another. Tools that don’t malfunction is another.

  3. On October 19, 2015 at 1:44 pm, John Shore said:

    I’m just going to throw out a name, here: Jack Belk. This is the gunsmithing fellow that first discovered this apparent fault in the Remington Walker trigger (this is almost certainly a rifle with one of those); He has a saying: “There is no safe direction to point an unsafe gun.”
    Firearms are pretty dangerous items, all things considered; That’s why there are those four safety rules. However, the owner of a precision-made, allegedly-‘safe’ firearm shouldn’t even have to consider the possibility that it just might, no matter what mistake he might make, take on a mind of its own and kill him, or his best friend. A ‘safety’ on a modern gun should only positively prevent the gun’s firing when it is applied, and allow the gun to be fired only with a pull of the trigger when it is taken off; It should NEVER act as the trigger.
    Having a firearm do something like this is akin to having your car accelerate rapidly when you shift into ‘drive’, crushing a pedestrian in front of you. ‘Forgiving’ a gun that fired when its safety was taken off, and placing the full blame on the user who innocently expected that he would have to pull the trigger to make it fire as a safe gun should, seems a little off the mark.

  4. On October 20, 2015 at 4:40 pm, Herschel Smith said:

    And I linked much of Jack’s work above. I’m not sure what your disagreement is. What is it that seems “a little off the mark?” To what in this article or the preceding do you disagree?

  5. On October 20, 2015 at 6:53 pm, joe said:

    Herschel, Mr. Shore was responding (I believe) to the first comment made above by McThag.

  6. On October 23, 2015 at 6:04 pm, John Shore said:

    Oh, gosh! I’m so sorry–No, your article is just FINE! Mr. McThag was to whom the post was directed–not at yours, or the article.
    All throughout the sad saga of Gus Barber and the CNBC expose’, folks kept insisting that the fault was always completely born by the holder of the rifle, with no blame attaching to the manufacturer who puts out a gun that can fire without the trigger being pulled. The Four Safety Rules have become almost a religion, making anyone who mains or kills with a defective firearm the goat; I used to be a member. Not any more.
    Once again, my regrets that I wrote so as to be easily misunderstood.

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You are currently reading "Another Remington Lawsuit", entry #14181 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Guns and was published October 18th, 2015 by Herschel Smith.

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