The U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided to overturn the ruling of a federal district court judge in a negligence and product liability lawsuit filed against a gun manufacturer. The plaintiff in the case of Seamon v. Remington Arms Company was the widow of a man who was killed by a firearm while out deer hunting alone. The Court of Appeals ruled that the district court was mistaken to exclude the plaintiff’s proposed expert witness, who would testify that the gun had a design flaw that caused it to fire on its own and cause the man’s death.
In November 2011, the plaintiff’s husband was hunting for deer in rural Alabama when he failed to return home. Family members searched for the man and eventually found him dead in his tree stand with a single bullet wound in his chest. Information from the most recent ruling revealed that the firearm was attached to a rope and had been at least five feet away from the man when it discharged because there was no gunpowder residue on the man’s body, which would usually be present in the event of a suicide or accidental discharge.
The decedent’s wife filed a lawsuit against the arms manufacturer in federal district court, and she offered the testimony of an expert witness who would testify that a specific manufacturing defect in the design of the trigger mechanism of the Remington Model 700 rifle that fired the shot that killed the man caused the gun to fire on its own while he was lowering the weapon from the tree stand. The expert noted that the defendants themselves have known that the Model 700 has fired unexpectedly “a number of times” in the past.