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Settlement Reached in Defective Gun Case

Gun Did Not Have Working Safety Device or "Loaded Chamber Indicator"

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- May 6, 2005 -- A settlement has been reached in a products liability lawsuit against Smith & Wesson for defectively designing and failing to childproof a semiautomatic pistol. The case involves Royce Ryan, who was eight years old when he was accidentally shot by another boy who did not realize that he was playing with a loaded gun, Ryan's lawyers said. Although Ryan survived, he was wounded in the face and suffered severe brain damage.

A gun manufacturer had never before settled a claim for failing to childproof a gun, according to Public Justice, Ryan's co-counsel. The Ryan lawsuit charges that:

  • The gun did not have a working safety device that could have prevented it from firing when the magazine was removed.
  • The gun did not have a "loaded chamber indicator," which would show whether it was unloaded or if it had is a bullet in the chamber.
  • The gun was not child-proofed, despite many inexpensive designs available for that purpose.

"... Those who manufacture, distribute, and sell guns have as much duty to act responsibly as those who manufacture, distribute, and sell other dangerous products," commented Public Justice Executive Director Arthur H. Bryant (Press Release, April 28, 2005). "... If Smith & Wesson had designed the gun responsibly, Royce Ryan would not have been injured and this case would never have been brought."

"We ... hope this settlement will help make gun companies childproof guns and prevent other children from being injured," added Lori Ryan, Royce Ryan's mother. "We are thankful that Royce's huge medical needs will now be met."

Accidental Injuries from Defective Firearms

The actual number of people who are killed or injured each year by defective firearms is not fully known, according to a recent report by the Consumer Foundation of America. Only limited statistics about gun injuries are available from the National Center for Injury Prevention. In 2001, the agency found that 802 Americans were unintentionally shot and killed, and 17,696 were treated in hospitals for accidental shooting injuries. About half of unintentional nonfatal injuries are associated with cleaning a gun, loading or unloading a gun, and carrying or showing a gun, the study said. It points out that guns can and do fire unexpectedly, a problem that could be remedied by "more thoughtful and conscientious design."

Pro-gun groups suggest that consumer education can prevent injuries. We believe that this is true only to a certain extent--consumer education programs cannot eliminate risks linked to defects in gun design and function. Defective guns pose added problems for unsuspecting consumers, especially children.

For more information, see the full text of the 300-page Consumer Foundation study. If you have any questions about gun injuries sustained by children, or any injury from a defective, unsafe or dangerous product, please feel free to contact us at Brayton Purcell.

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