On June 22, 2009, the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Appellate District in Portage County, Ohio issued a decision affirming an order granting summary judgment in favor of O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc. and Maverick Arms, Inc. and dismissing the complaint against them in its entirety.
On December 26, 2002, Plaintiff, Nathan Gay, then sixteen years old, was shot by his friend, Billy Clayton, Jr., with a Mossberg 500 pump-action shotgun and rendered a paraplegic. Billy Clayton, Jr. claimed that he did not know that the shotgun was loaded and that it accidentally discharged. Plaintiff argued that the shotgun was defectively designed because it did not have a loaded chamber indicator or “other safety devices” that would have alerted Billy Clayton, Jr. to the fact that it was loaded.
Through extensive discovery, Renzulli Law Firm, LLP was able to position the case for a successful summary judgment motion by establishing that Billy Clayton, Jr. had pointed the shotgun at Nathan Gay and pulled the trigger in violation of fundamental principles of firearms safety. In addition, Billy Clayton, Jr. had failed to check the shotgun to ensure that it was unloaded. Renzulli Law Firm, LLP was able to establish that Billy Clayton, Jr. had received training in firearms safety, including the “Ten Commandments of Firearms Safety,” and had completed the Ohio Hunter’s Safety Course. In addition, he had been trained how to operate the Mossberg 500 shotgun by his father, including how to unload it and check to ensure that it is unloaded. Through expert discovery, Renzulli Law Firm, LLP was able to establish why the additional safety devices proposed by plaintiff would not have prevented the incident.
The court held that the numerous safety violations by Billy Clayton, Jr. removed the incident from the category of foreseeable misuse of the shotgun and that the presence of a loaded chamber indicator would not have prevented the incident because Billy Clayton, Jr. knew how to determine whether the shotgun was loaded, but failed to do so before pointing it at Nathan Gay and pulling the trigger. Accordingly, it affirmed the dismissal of all claims against O.F. Mossberg & Sons, Inc. and Maverick Arms, Inc., despite plaintiff’s catastrophic injuries.
This decision confirms the importance of establishing the factual record through discovery and expert witnesses to prove that any defect alleged by a plaintiff was not the proximate cause of an incident to position a case for a successful summary judgment motion.
For more information on the defense of product liability cases contact John Renzulli.