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Federal Appellate Court Reverses Lower Court Judgment and Rules Against Firearms Manufacturer in Products Liability Lawsuit

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.

to-be-a-target-1306531As the Hunter Lowered the Gun From a Hunting Stand, it Discharged on its Own

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.

The District Court Denies The Expert’s Testimony, Claiming it was Overly Speculative

The federal trial court ruled against allowing the expert’s proposed testimony into evidence at trial. The court stated that the expert was not reliable because he failed to account for possible alternative causes of the shooting proposed by the defendant. Furthermore, the district court ruled that the expert’s opinion was speculative and that it was “equally plausible” for the weapon to have fired because the trigger was pulled by either the hunter or an unknown third party. Since the plaintiff’s expert was excluded from testifying, the district court found there was no evidence that the defendant was liable for the man’s death.

The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit Finds that the District Court Was Mistaken in Their Ruling

The Eleventh Circuit ruled that the district court had applied the incorrect standard to the admissibility of expert testimony in a product liability case. The court found that the showing for admissibility was clearly made, and that the expert’s conclusions were based on reasonable inferences that he made from the evidence. Based on this favorable appellate ruling, the plaintiff will again have the chance for their claim to be heard at trial.

Have You Been Injured?

If you or a family member needs legal advice about a Florida product liability case, contact the law firm of Cohn & Smith at 954-431-8100. Our aggressive injury attorneys will fight for the compensation that you deserve. We have offices throughout South Florida and can assist you with your Fort Lauderdale, Pembroke Pines, Davie, or other injury case.

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