Monday, February 19, 2007

A Bit of Common Sense in the Courts

As you all know, we live in a very litigious society. It seems that anyone can sue or get sued by anyone else. Pretty much any tool or appliance you purchase today comes with a large list of "read this first" safety instructions. Each one of those seemingly idiotic instructions is included for one reason and one reason only, the manufacturer has been sued by a customer who "did not know better" and performed that particular idiotic act.

Recently there was a case in Texas where a man shot himself in the leg and attempted to sue the manufacturer of an aftermarket trigger, trying to indicate he was wounded because the trigger was to light and therefor defective. Both the jury and the U.S. Court of Appeals (5th Cir.) looked at the guy and said.... Daym, that was stupid.

From the Products Liability Prof Blog:

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).
Even the Fifth Circuit agrees, all firearm owners and users are responsible for the safe handling and usage of their firearms. For information on the safe handling of firearms, go here.


Jim said...

Don't beleive everythign you hear in the news. Juries have an extraordinary amount of common sense. Jurors are not the herd of retards they are often portrayed as.

John R said...

Hey Jim, thanks for stopping by. The purpose of this post was not to disparage juries, but to point out (once again) that anyone in possession of a firearm has the moral and legal responsibility to handle it safely.