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Tennessee Judge Dismisses Product Liability Claim Against Gun Manufacturer


In Tennessee, a product manufacturer can be held legally responsible for injuries caused by a defective product. The idea is that the manufacturer is in the “best position” to protect the public from any potential harm arising from the design or manufacture of its own products. But how does product liability work when the product itself is designed to harm people?

Plaintiff Failed to Link Accident, Design Defect

Many Tennessee residents legally purchase, own, and use firearms. A gun is like any other consumer product. Even though it is designed to kill, a manufacturer may still be liable if an injured plaintiff can demonstrate there was some defect in design, manufacture, or even the safety instructions provided with the firearm.

But courts are typically reluctant to side with plaintiffs who bring product liability cases against firearms manufacturers. A recent decision by a federal judge in Nashville offers one example. In this case, the plaintiff was at a retail store with a friend. The plaintiff was showing his friend a firearm that he had previously purchased and demonstrating how to “make the gun safe.”

In the process of attempting to lock the gun’s slide, the firearm slipped, and as the plaintiff caught it, the gun discharged. The plaintiff sustained a serious hand wound that required the amputation of a finger.

The plaintiff subsequently sued the manufacturer of the gun. He alleged there was a “loose screw” in the firearm’s built-in laser sight that prevented him from locking the slide. The plaintiff claimed this was a defective design that led to his accident.

But the court disagreed. A federal magistrate judge issued an opinion recommending dismissal of the case. In September, a U.S. district judge adopted the magistrate’s findings.

Taking the plaintiff’s complaint at face value, the magistrate said he failed to “sufficiently connect the loose screw preventing the slide from being placed in the locked position” to the gun slipping and discharging in the plaintiff’s hand. Put simply, the magistrate said “the loose screw did not cause the Plaintiff to drop the firearm.” Dropping the gun is what caused it to discharge, according to the plaintiff’s own lawsuit, and the manufacturer could not have reasonably anticipated that. Under Tennessee law, a manufacturer is only liable for the “foreseeable consequence” of a defect.

Never Represent Yourself in Court

It is also worth noting that the plaintiff in this case apparently acted without the assistance of an attorney. Representing yourself is never a good idea, especially in a product liability case where you may be up against a well-financed manufacturer. Even under the best of circumstances, product liability lawsuits involve highly technical questions of both fact and law. It is not a small claims case.

In many cases, product liability may also involve more than one defendant. There may be multiple manufacturers responsible for a product’s design. This is yet another reason you should not try to handle such litigation on your own. If you need assistance from an experienced Knoxville products liability lawyer, contact the offices of Fox, Farley, Willis & Burnette, Attorneys at Law, today.



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