The Tort Lawyer’s Second Amendment: You Have the Right to Keep and Bear Safe and Non-Defective Arms

Safety First - The Cooper Firm

The Tort Lawyer’s Second Amendment:  

You Have the Right to Keep and Bear Safe and Non-Defective Arms 

Another defective product.   It’s killing and hurting people.   It’s dangerous.    The manufacturer knew it was dangerous since 1947, when it first went into service.   The designer of the product said in 1947 that he anticipated the defect and alerted the company.   Even though the company knew about it, it rejected a 5.5 cents fix.

No, no, not GM or one of the other usual suspects.   This time it is Remington Arms Company, one of the most venerated icons of American firearms.  And the defective product:   an equally venerated rifle line, the Model 700s, used by millions of hunters, military snipers, and police and SWAT teams everywhere.

The flaw:  A part called the “trigger connector” can get clogged with rust or debris, and thus allow the rifle to fire when the safety is in the OFF position, or when it is switched off or the user operating the bolt (as in you are about to shoot or clean the rifle at home or at the range or in the field).

The original fix:   slightly more than a nickel.

The delay:   1947 to 2014

Number of Rifles Involved:   7.85 million rifles

So how does this happen?    Unfortunately, it happened in the usual way.    The manufacturer and the engineer designed the product.   It was great in many respects, touting a new patented trigger mechanism that allowed the rifle to shoot accurately and smoothly.    But, the engineer, Mike Walker, alerted the company to “theoretical unsafe condition” in the gun’s safety mechanism.   This was in 1946.   The company did nothing, and kept making and selling the popular rifle.

Over the years, according to reports and court documents, some 100 serious and 2 deaths were linked the unwanted discharge of the Model 700.    But the company kept selling the rifles.

In 1970 and 1994 Remington thought about recalling the rifles.  Each time it rejected the recall or retrofit as too expensive.   75 lawsuits later, and after a class action was certified in Missouri, Remington agreed to repair the triggers.  But still would not call it a true “safety recall.”    And before then, most of the public did not know about the dangerous trigger.

This long-time deception took place because Remington often required the victims of lawsuits to settle confidentiality agreements.   While it is standard many times to prohibit release of the amount a settlement, Remington went one step farther and required non-disclosure of the fact of the lawsuit itself.   Thus, like the IUD and fuel tank lawsuits and many others, the public benefit of a public lawsuit was concealed.   And the manufacturer escaped full revelation of the existence and dangers of its defective product.

In 2014, after years of denying it had a problem at all—and blaming victims for being careless—Remington set aside a $29.7 million “Model 700 settlement reserve.”

The Latest Update:

A federal judge has agreed to further delay a class-action settlement involving some 7.5 million allegedly defective Remington rifles, after the parties in the case said they need more time to develop a better plan to alert the public.

United States District Judge Ortrie Smith in Missouri put the case on hold last month, hours after CNBC published a new investigation into allegations that Remington’s popular Model 700 rifle contains a design defect that allows it to fire without the trigger being pulled.

Remington continues to deny that there is a defect, but nonetheless has agreed to replace the triggers, free of charge, in millions of guns. However, Smith ordered the company and plaintiffs lawyers to go back to the drawing board, because only 2,327 gun owners out of more than 7 million had submitted claims since the tentative settlement was first announced.

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