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Hearing Protection Warning Held Inadequate to Shield Gun Maker from Liability
Description Appeals court upheld verdict against gun maker when shooter suffered hearing loss when gun misfired and explosion caused hearing damage. Fact that warning of need to wear hearing protection was on gun and ammunition did not preclude jury from imposing liability.
Topic Torts
Key Words Strict Liability, Failure to Warn, Defective Design, Negligence
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Chronister bought a new Bryco handgun. The first time he took it out to shoot, it misfired and jammed several times. On the last shot, the cartridge exploded when the chamber was open. Chronister was temporarily blinded and suffered damage to his hearing. He was not wearing any hearing protection "even though both the gun's package and the ammunition box warned that firearms should not be used without hearing protection." Chronister sued Bryco in strict liability and negligence for defective design and failure to warn. Jury found Chronister five percent at fault on the strict liability claim and 25 percent at fault on the negligence claim and assessed damages at $315,000 for strict liability and $20,000 for negligence. The judge denied Bryco's motions for judgment as a matter of law and it appealed.
Decision Affirmed. "It is basic products liability law that a manufacturer cannot escape strict liability for a defective product that has been misused by the plaintiff, if that misuse is reasonably foreseeable." A reasonable jury could have found "that Bryco could have foreseen that some target shooters might choose not to wear hearing protection. . . .The jury could reasonably have concluded that, had an adequate warning of the Bryco 59's particular risks been present, Chronister would have altered his behavior."
Citation Chronister v. Bryco Arms, ---F.3d--- (1997 WL 561699, 8th Cir.)
125 F.3d 624 (8th Cir., 1997)

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