You earn money in order to purchase goods that, you assume, are safe to use. Few of us would have a second thought about buying a children’s toy, for instance, and giving the child that toy before ensuring that it is not a defective product. It is simply a symptom of the world that we are fortunate to live in. After all, it is rare that 1) the products we buy are defective and 2) they are faulty enough to potentially cause harm.
Though rare, it is important to realize that defective products do exist and do cause harm all across the country–sometimes leading to catastrophic, even fatal, injuries. For Randy McNeal, a trip to the shooting range could have easily ended fatally, but instead, resulted in the amputation of his left small finger (pinky). Though certainly no injury to scoff at, it is easy to see how lucky he truly was after reviewing the specifics of the accident.
Under Fire: Who is at Fault?
According to the case notes, McNeal was visiting On Target Guns and Indoor Range with a friend. Wanting to allow his friend to handle the weapon safely within the retail section of the gun range, he released the magazine from the pistol and attempted to pull back the slide and put it in the locked position to check for a chambered round.
The slide, however, did not seem to be able to be pulled back far enough to be placed in the locked position. McNeal then decided to try to quickly pull back the slide multiple times, and that is when misfortune struck.
The Smith & Wesson pistol fell from his hands. He managed to grab it before it fell to the ground but accidentally discharged the weapon, causing the injury and amputation of his finger.
As it turns out, the issue that McNeal experienced, he claimed, was caused by a loose screw associated with the pistol’s built-in laser sight, which blocked the slide from being placed in the locked position. McNeal also claimed that this was no issue with the maintenance of his weapon, but rather, the clear signs of a dangerously defective product.
McNeal’s injury resulted in pain and suffering, permanent physical and psychological impairment, high medical expenses and the loss of enjoyment of certain social, recreational and work activities, as well as lost wages and future lost wages. McNeal’s wife also claimed loss of consortium, companionship and society with her husband due to this serious injury. All of this, McNeal asserted, was the responsibility of Smith & Wesson. After all, the gun manufacturer went on to redesign the model with modified laser sights, even going as far as retrofitting the original design upon request. This is a clear-cut case of a defective product causing significant bodily injury, no?
Injury from Product ≠ Defective Product
McNeal was seriously injured by a Smith & Wesson product, which did not perform as it was manufactured to, leading to his injury. However, injury alone does not prove that the manufacturer produced a defective product. Smith & Wesson, or any manufacturer, is never asked to create a product that is accident proof. Instead, it is up to McNeal to prove that the specific defect he found in the product directly caused his injury.
It is a small distinction, but an important one. In attempting to hold Smith & Wesson liable for his injury, he was also required to prove proximate cause (logical consideration of case based on precedence, justice, etc.) and cause in fact (the direct cause and effect of the defect and injury that it allegedly caused).
Though the loose screw may have very well have triggered the events that led to McNeal’s injury, he failed to connect the loose screw to the pistol slipping from his hands–the real cause of the gun discharging.
Defective product litigation, as you can see, can be quite complicated. Even though you can logically understand McNeal’s claim against Smith & Wesson, the personal injury law, especially surrounding a defective product, can be frustratingly unintuitive for those who do not live and breathe it every day.
If you are injured due to a dangerously defective product, do not hesitate; call our product liability attorneys today.
Information cited from: https://casetext.com/case/mcneal-v-smith-wesson-corp