Plaintiffs in a class action suit that forced Remington Arms to settle a case concerning its defective trigger design has asked the court this week to ignore an amicus brief filed by 10 attorneys general from across the country.
Their response claims the attorney general for Massachusetts along with top cops from eight other states and the District of Columbia were trying to impose policy-based views on the court when they asked the judge to reject the settlement agreement reached after two years of negotiations.
The class calls their arguments “a complete and fundamental misunderstanding of the realities of both class action litigation and the gun owning public.”
The attorneys general argued the settlement does not do enough to protect consumers from Remington’s trigger mechanism that inadvertently allows a firearm to discharge without the pull of a trigger. They argue the settlement fails to explain the seriousness of the problem and forces Remington to fully reconcile with the public.
“The defects, which cause Remington rifles to fire without a trigger pull, have been known for decades,” the brief says, adding that for the past 50 years the design has been the subject of more than 2,000 customer complaints, hundreds of lawsuits, and linked to scores of injuries and deaths.
In five decades Remington sold more than 7.5 million rifles with the defective trigger design, but the settlement has only generated less than one-tenth of a percent of that figure in claims since last year. With such a high number of defective rifles, too few claims exist to make the settlement tenable.
“For any product, a claims rate this low is troubling, even if it is ultimately increased by as much as ten or twenty times while the settlement is pending,” the brief says. “But for rifles whose dangerousness is real, well-documented, and pervasive, the anticipated minimal number of retrofits is potentially deadly.”
The settlement was considered a milestone in the history of the infamous design because of the sheer number of affected rifles and the projected costs — $487 million, according to company executives. Yet, despite the overwhelming price tag, Remington saved itself from calling its products defective.
Lead plaintiff in the class action suit, Ian Pollard, of Concordia, Missouri, filed the case in January 2013, saying his Remington 700 bolt-action rifle fired unexpectedly three times in the 13 years he owned it. While he was not hurt, the complaint cited others who had been. The lawsuit detailed specific issues with the Walker Fire Control trigger, which has become an informal template for lawsuits challenging Remington’s design.
According to court documents, WFC uses an internal component known as a “connector,” which does not physically attach to the trigger but rather floats on top of it and holds in place by tension from a spring and the side plates. The design creates a gap where dust or debris can build between the components and then cause the mechanism to function improperly by, for instance, discharge a round without the pull of a trigger.
Remington maintains a website to identify recalled products, the issue in question and how class participants can file a claim or opt out. A final hearing for the settlement agreement is scheduled for next month.