The judge presiding over a landmark class action settlement between Remington Arms and owners of its infamous trigger design has raised concerns over the small number of claims filed.
“It seems inconceivable to me that someone would have a firearm that might injure a loved one and not have it fixed,” said U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith at Tuesday’s hearing in a Kansas City federal court, CNBC reports.
With more than 7.5 million allegedly defective rifles, only about 22,000 owners have filed claims in the two years since the settlement was announced. The concern is that the recall of rifles with the defective trigger design, which has been linked to numerous injuries and deaths, will have a limited impact on preventing future accidents.
With a 0.29 percent claims rate, Remington, which has been the subject of scores of lawsuits over the design, could continue to say its product is safe.
“If the settlement is approved, Remington is absolved of close to half a billion dollars in potential liability…at a cost of less than $3 million,” Smith said. “That is a very small payment for Remington in this case.”
Critics, including Attorneys General from nine states, are urging Smith to reject the deal because of those small numbers and saying Remington hasn’t done enough to encourage owners to participate in the recall.
Per a court order, Remington must publicize the settlement and explain how to participate. But critics say the company has used ineffective methods that are needlessly complicated for owners to file claims.
Yet, Remington and attorneys for plaintiffs, who will be awarded $12.5 million no matter how many claims are filed, are pushing for Smith to approve the settlement. They say the claim numbers do not tell the full story, explaining many gun owners are unwilling to turn over their guns for repair, especially if they’ve never had a problem with theirs.
If Smith rejects the settlement — which there were issues with other agreements — the case would go to trial. If the class loses at trial that would result in zero guns fixed, but if plaintiffs win they could prove that Remington has knowingly sold products that were defective.
The infamous trigger design, called the Walker Fire Control, has been a feature on Remington Model 700 rifle since the 1960s. The flawed design has been linked to numerous accidental discharges as dust or debris could allow the rifle to fire without the pull of a trigger. According to court documents, engineers working for the company proposed modifying the design for mere pennies, but the company rejected the proposal citing cost.
Smith will release his ruling within 30 days of Tuesday’s hearing.