Plaintiff’s Product Liability Case Against Rifle Manufacturer Revived on Appeal

Earlier this month, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower state court decision, allowing the plaintiff in a product liability lawsuit to proceed toward trial despite the defendant’s challenges to the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony. In the case, Seamon v. Remington Arms Company, the plaintiff was the wife of a man who had died while hunting alone with his Remington Model 700 bolt-action rifle.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s husband left to go hunting by himself back in November 2011. He had an elevated stand up in the trees from which he would hunt. However, after several hours of failing to return text messages from his family, they called police. Police found the man dead in the elevated tree stand, with his rifle 13 feet below. There was a rope attached to the rifle’s scope, the safety was off, and there was a spent shell in the chamber. There was no gunshot residue on the man, leading investigators to believe he was at least five to 10 feet away when the gun fired. No one witnessed the shooting.

The man’s wife filed a product liability case against the manufacturer of the rifle, claiming that her husband died as a result of a defect in the gun. The plaintiff had an expert testify that, in his experience, the trigger mechanism in the Model 700 rifle was subject to sporadic firing. He testified that in cases of sporadic firing, there are usually some deposits in the fire control housing of the gun. He further testified that upon examination, the gun the plaintiff’s husband was using had deposits in the fire control housing. This led the expert to believe that the gun may have accidentally fired without having the trigger pulled.

The lower court determined that the expert’s testimony was not admissible at trial because it was speculative and thus unreliable. The plaintiff appealed.

On Appeal, the Lower Court is Reversed

The appellate court hearing the case disagreed with the lower court, noting that the expert’s testimony was based on a solid analytical analysis, and merely because the expert could not recreate the accidental firing did not mean that his hypothesis as to what happened was implausible.

The court noted that the expert did not need to consider all other potential explanations for the accidental firing. As long as his proposed explanation was “plausible,” it should be admissible and presented to the jury for consideration. As a result of this ruling, the plaintiff’s case will be remanded back to the lower court to proceed toward trial.

Have You Been Injured by a Dangerous Product?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured by a dangerous product, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for all that you have been put through. This may include amounts for the medical expenses you or your loved one incurred, as well as for any emotional damages such as pain and suffering. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to set up a free consultation with a dedicated Washington, D.C. injury attorney.

More Blog Posts:

Lessor of Crane Involved in Serious Accident Found Not Liable for Plaintiff’s Injuries, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, February 16, 2016

Affected Families Push the Supreme Court to Reconsider “Feres” Doctrine, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, February 2, 2016

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