An Ashley County jury ruled in favor of a gun manufacturer in a civil case that lasted all of last week. The case hinged on the plaintiff’s claim that he was injured when a gun misfired.
The plantiff, Edward Harrod and his wife, who were represented by Byrd Law Firm, filed a suit against multiple defendants including Remington Arms Co., and Shannon Wilkinson in Wilkinson’s business capacity connected to The Swap Shop and Sports South. Friday Eldridge and Clark of Arkansas and Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP of Chicago represented Remington, and Hudson, Potts, & Bernstein, LLP represented Wilkinson.
Harrod accidentally shot himself with a Model 700 rifle in November 2014, the result of which cost Harrod a portion of his leg and kept him out of work for approximately 33 months. The lawsuit alleged that the gun malfunctioned because of an issue with the trigger on a gun model that Remington did a voluntary recall on in 2014.
Remington did a voluntary recall on a model 700 and model Seven rifles in 2014, stating that “under certain circumstances the gun could unintentionally discharge.” The fault was linked to the XMP triggers and the recall stated that the triggers might have excess bonding agent used in the assembly process.
A class action lawsuit was settled in late 2018 in favor of owners of approximately 7.5 million Remington firearms including the Model 700 rifle. The suit allowed 18 months for the gun owners to file claims for a free replacement of their guns’ admittedly defective triggers or a voucher. According to news media and articles published at that time, the Model 700 had been linked to multiple accidental death lawsuits and hundreds of serious injury cases.
In this specific case, Harrod claimed he shot himself in the leg when the gun misfired as he was attempting to unload it.
Testimonies by the plaintiff and his witnesses alleged that the gun misfired as Harrod was moving the gun from safety to fire so that he could unload the gun and the gun was faulty and discharged unintentionally.
Testimonies from the defendant alleged that though the gun was recalled, that gun had already been sent to the factory to be corrected before Harrod purchased it and was fully functional and safe.
Harrod’s attorneys alleged that not only was the gun faulty, but that when Harrod purchased the gun he wasn’t fully informed of its history by Wilkinson, the store owner. Harrod’s council alleged that he should have been told that the gun had been recalled and sent back to the factory before he purchased the gun.
Throughout the week Judge Sam Pope and a jury of 12 heard from more than 20 witnesses and expert witnesses and reviewed several exhibits and videos.
In addition to expert testimonies, the jury heard from witnesses, including those who attended to Harrod on scene, his family members, employees of the companies involved, and a responding game warden.
The jury was presented with four questions on Friday. They were to decide if they thought the gun was defective, if any of the parties were negligent, if a warranty was breached and if the companies or parties failed to warn Harrod of the gun’s possible defects.
The jury voted 9-3 on three of the issues presented and was unanimous regarding the issue of a warranty breach, all in favor of the defendants.
Some of the issues brought up in cross-examining and closing arguments were specifically related to when Harrod learned of the recall and the events directly following the incident. The defense argued that the gun had been completely repaired when it was sent in to the manufacturer and the plaintiff argued that the gun was in fact still faulty.
One of the issues specifically mentioned in closing statements by one of the defendant’s attorneys was that Harrod possibly shot himself accidentally and then learned of the recall, hoping to group his incident in with the issues Remington was currently having. The defense alleged that the plaintiff didn’t mention the safety or say that the gun misfired in his initial recounts of the story.
According to a testimony by a game warden, who questioned the plaintiff while he was still in the hospital, Harrod never mentioned anything about switching the gun from safety to fire when it misfired, though the game warden did testify that at the time he spoke with Harrod, Harrod did not know what happened.
There were also conflicting testimonies about which side of the truck Harrod was standing on and whether or not he was in the truck when the gun went off. The defense specifically pointed out that one of the plaintiff’s testimonies had changed. In deposition, a witness for the plaintiff, drew a picture of the plaintiff’s location and said the plaintiff was on the driver’s side when the incident occurred. At the trial, she said she wasn’t sure and that he could have been on the passenger side as said in several of the other testimonies.
Both sides rested on Thursday afternoon, closing arguments were heard on Friday and a decision was made by mid afternoon in favor of the defendants.