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Man injured in gun accident files product liability lawsuit

Many residents of Louisiana own guns. Responsible gun owners know that all guns present inherent dangers that an individual must appreciate in order to avoid injury while the gun is being used. But when a gun malfunctions or is manufactured in a way that creates dangers beyond those that are inherent in the product, the manufacturer may be liable for any resulting injuries.

A federal lawsuit that was recently dismissed against gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson has been reinstated upon appeal. According to the appeals court, the lower court should not have dismissed the case simply due to a conflict between the plaintiff's testimony and that of his expert witness.

The gun owner was injured while shooting his Smith & Wesson revolver. The plaintiff testified he fired his gun twice without any adverse reaction from the weapon. However, upon firing the gun the third time, the gun discharged incorrectly, which caused serious injury to his eye, face and nose.

The man filed a product liability lawsuit claiming the gun was a dangerous product and that Smith & Wesson was a negligent manufacturer. But his testimony about whether the gun's cylinder was closed at the time of the accident varied from the testimony of his own expert witness. The plaintiff claimed the cylinder was closed. His expert concluded it was open; that this was the cause of the misfire; and that the gun was defectively designed because the design allowed the gun to be discharged with an open cylinder. Smith & Wesson moved to have the case dismissed and the lower court agreed.

In reinstating the case, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals noted that a plaintiff is allowed to proceed with contradictory evidence. The appellate court ruled that the jury could reasonably conclude the plaintiff was mistaken and that the expert's analysis was correct.

Product liability lawsuits are complex and, as this case illustrates, often present unique legal and factual issues. Individuals who believe they have been injured by unsafe products can benefit from having their case evaluated by an attorney with experience in this field.

Source: LawFuel, "Gun Maker's Product Liability Ruling Reinstated," July 31, 2014

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