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February 12, 2007

Unsafe Gun Handling Precludes Recovery in Hair-Trigger Firearm Case

A Texas man whose lower leg was amputated after he had shot himself was found to be 75% at fault for his own injury and was thus precluded from recovering under Texas' modified comparative fault system against the manufacturer of a defectively-designed trigger mechanism.  The plaintiff was loading a rifle in a moving vehicle.  The rifle belonged to a third person who had replaced the original trigger with one manufactured by the defendant.  The jury found that the replacement trigger was defectively designed because the trigger pull was too light - a hair trigger.  The jury also found, however, that the plaintiff was negligent in attempting to load the rifle in a moving vehicle, by not keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction, by not treating the gun as though it were loaded, and by not having the gun on "safe" while attempting to load it. 

The plaintiff argued that the cause of his injury was the defective design and that he had no duty to discover or guard againt an unsafe product design.  The U.S. Court of Appeals (5th Cir.) said, however, that a consumer must act reasonably and take reasonable precautions even if the product is defective, and concluded that the jury could have found that the plaintiff's negligent gun-handling was unrelated to the product defect.  Although the product defect may have been unforeseeable, said the court, an accidental discharge of a firearm is not unforeseeable.  The plaintiff's injury would not have occurred in spite of the defective trigger were it not for his own negligence.  See Doran v. Yoho, 2007 WL 98359 (5th Cir. (Tex.) 2007 (unreported).

JDP

February 12, 2007 | Permalink

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