Our Charlotte personal injury lawyers understand that products liability cases require a thorough understanding of this ever-changing area of negligence law.
In Hartman v. Ebsco Indus., Inc., the plaintiff was seriously injured when the muzzle-loading firearm he was loading accidently discharged, causing the patched round ball (bullet) to shoot through his hand and into his arm.
In case you are not familiar with a muzzle-loading firearm, it is a firearm where you pour black powder into the chamber, add a piece of cotton wadding, and then place a round ball of lead into the barrel. You then take a metal-tipped wooden rod called a ramrod and force the round ball down the barrel. You place a percussion cap on the gun (or use flash powder) so that the gun will fire when the hammer strikes. This was how all guns were made up until the end of the Civil War. In this case, the plaintiff was using a modern reproduction of a muzzle-loading rifle.
Muzzleloaders use black powder, which is not as volatile as modern day gun powder or pyrodex. Even if a person uses modern gun powder, he or she would need to use a shotgun primer instead of an old style percussion cap. In Hartman, the plaintiff attempted to use a shotgun primer, but the powder would not ignite. To overcome this problem, the plaintiff ordered a premade conversion kit for the rifle.
This conversion kit was manufactured by the same company that manufactured the muzzleloader. After the plaintiff installed the upgrade kit, he and his friends went to test the gun and sight the rifle. He put a primer on the gun before loading. This is considered very dangerous and is not proper procedure. He also used a more dangerous type of ammunition than instructed. While he was forcing the round ball into the barrel, it discharged causing the rod and ball to hit him.
The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the firearm's manufacture and associated entities in which he claimed negligence. The defendants filed for summary judgment, requesting that the case be dismissed.
The grounds for dismissal were that the gun was manufactured more than 10 years ago and a state statue limited products liability to a 10-year period after the goods were placed into the stream of commerce.
Rule 56 of the Rules of Criminal Procedure controls a motion for summary judgment in North Carolina. This is a motion that states that, even if everything the plaintiff alleges is true, there is no valid case against the defendant. In Hartman, the reason was that the 10-year limitation period preventing bringing a suit.
In Hartman, the Court looked at the issue of whether a later modification of an existing product by the manufacturer would restart the 10-year period. The requirement was whether the modifications extended the useful life an existing product. Based upon testimony in the case, the court found that it only made the gun more accurate but did not extend its useful life.
Contact the Charlotte personal injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Hartman v. Ebsco Indus., Inc., July 10, 2014, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
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