A judge recently ruled against the one of the nation's largest firearm manufacturer, Remington Arms, in a new personal injury case filed by a Louisiana hunter. The case has proven to be a controversial one since there are strict laws that protect gun makers from lawsuits in the state.
According to the lawsuit filed by Precious Seguin, she was injured while participating in a hunting expedition in October 2013. Seguin, her father, brother and family friend had been tracking down a wounded deer in the brush at approximately 10 p.m. The group was following the deer's trail of blood in a single file line. While Seguin was bent over to get a closer look at the tracks, her father's Remington 710 bolt-action rifle fired off. The bullet struck Seguin in her right buttocks and glided through her hip, the round ultimately exited through her right elbow.
Precious alleged that the action rifle's design was defective. The egregious trigger design, named Walker Fire Control (WFC), often allowed the gun to discharge without the user pulling the trigger. The mechanism has been associated with several injuries and nearly a dozen deaths since it has been established and applied to guns by the manufacturer. In Seguin's case, the gun had been strapped over his shoulder and pointed towards the sky when a large branch in the woods knocked it backward, repositioning the safety to a fire position and discharging the round. Seguin notes that this had been the first time the rifle had unintentionally fired.
The defense vehemently challenged Seguin's claims. Remington's attorney's claimed that it was not the company's design, but the branch that was responsible for the gun's unintentional discharge. Throughout the trial they presented studies and tests that concluded the gun could only fire off by the trigger being pulled. They alleged that the in this rare incident, it must have been either caught on an object or simply mishandled by its user. The defense also referenced Seguin's father's account of the event to law enforcement. They claim he told authorities that the tree branch pulled the trigger.
Under Louisiana law, there is legislation that prohibits firearm makers from being held liable for casualties or injuries inflicted by guns unless it is declared defective. The court, however, decided to rule in the favor of Seguin. A pre-motion agreement between the plaintiff and the defendant dictated that she would be awarded $500,000 in damages if the court saw fit. Remington attorney, Donald Douglas, says the case is far from over with and that the agreement may be void at any possibility of an appeal.
“I would expect Remington to appeal to the U.S. Fifth Circuit, and as the ruling presents a pure legal issue under Louisiana law, I'd expect the Fifth to send a certified question to the Louisiana Supreme Court and ask it to decide the legal issue,” Douglas said. “Then the Fifth would apply the Louisiana Supreme Court interpretation to the case.”