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Manufacturer liability for defective guns

Gun manufacturers are bound by laws to sell products that are safe to use. That may seem paradoxical, since the intended use of a weapon is often to injure or kill. Guns can be used for dangerous purposes, but Montana consumers still depend on firearms makers to manufacture weapons without harmful defects.

Civil laws apply when gun-related serious injuries or wrongful deaths are due to negligence or product flaws. The approach used by attorneys to help firearm accident victims recover compensation for losses may cover one or more areas of law, including product liability. Manufacturers, distributors and retailers can be held accountable for gun defects.

Many Gallatin County residents may be familiar with product liability complaints filed against the Remington Arms Co. A 9-year-old boy was killed in 2000 on a Montana hunting trip with his family. The child died after a Remington 700 rifle discharged accidentally, which a lawsuit claimed was due to a faulty trigger mechanism.

Several class action lawsuits were filed against Remington over the same trigger defect. In July 2014, Remington agreed to settle the claims. The company later issued a recall for Remington 700 rifles and Model Seven rifles, admitting defective triggers might cause unintentional rifle discharges.

Guns can be defective in design, manufacturing and marketing. Plaintiffs must prove a flaw was responsible for a safety risk or malfunction. In cases involving design flaws, plaintiffs may have to show an alternative, cost-effective design would have made the weapon safer to use.

Marketing flaws are concerned with manufacturer promises and product instructions and warnings. A gun must operate as stated by the weapons-maker. Manufacturers also have a duty to warn consumers about risks during intended and foreseeable uses of a gun.

Compensation under a negligence theory is derived from a defendant's careless or reckless actions. It's possible for some defendants to be faulted for violations of negligence and product defects laws.

Source: FindLaw, "Product Liability and Guns" Oct. 08, 2014

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