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Products Liability and Wrongful Death Claim Against Gun Manufacturer Thrown Out by Appeals Court

Posted by Paul Levin | Aug 15, 2012 | 0 Comments

A wrongful death suit against a gun owner and the gun's manufacturer has demonstrated the difficulty of pursuing a products liability claim involving a firearm. The Appeals Court of Massachusetts affirmed the trial court's summary judgment for the defendants in Ryan v. Hughes-Ortiz81 Mass. App. Ct. 90 (Mass. App. Ct. 2012), finding that federal statutes bar recovery under the facts and circumstances of the case. The appeals court based its decision on the conduct of the decedent more than any condition of the gun.

Thomas Hughes owned a Glock 9mm Model 17 pistol, which he kept, along with other firearms, in a chest in a locked second-floor bedroom. Hughes testified that he helped Charles Milot reestablish himself after Milot's release from an eighteen-month prison stay in November 2001. This included paying Milot for odd jobs at his home. Milot's sister testified that Milot showed her two handguns at a family event in February 2002, which he said he got from Hughes' house using a key he found. She said Milot agreed to return the guns to where he found them.

On February 25, 2002, Hughes left Milot at his house with instructions for repairs. When he returned, he found Milot's body in the front doorway, where he was pronounced dead. Police concluded that, while Milot was attempting to return the pistol to its plastic case in the upstairs bedroom, the gun fired, striking Milot in the leg and hitting his femoral artery. Milot made it downstairs and was able to use the telephone before collapsing.

About the Author

Paul Levin

Attorney Levin was admitted to practice law in the State of Connecticut beginning 1989 and in New York Federal district court beginning 1992. He is a member of the Connecticut Trial Lawyers Association, Connecticut Bar Association, and the National Association for American Justice. Prior to establishing his own law firm, Attorney Levin was associated with the…

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