A series of lawsuits have been pursued by a variety of ambulance chasers against Remington over the model 700 rifle, thanks to TV publicity about some accidents. In most of these accidents it seems that someone was careless with the gun ,but after negligent-discharge remorse, came to forget the carelessness. Instead, they conveniently blame the gun, its safety and trigger, and since you can’t slake your greed by suing yourself and your own property, Remington’s deep pockets. It was a case of mass hysteria like the Audi “unintentional acceleration” cases — imagine the Salem witch hunts of 1692 with an added profit motive.
Well, that’s what makes “class actions” go. Class actions are a racket in which lawyers, supposedly enjoined by “legal ethics” (ha) from suing on their own behalf, grab some token “plaintiff,” and… sue on their own behalf.
The plaintiff’s insignificance in the whole lawyer-driven thing is clear when you see how class-action settlements generally go. The lawyers get millions, and the class members get, generally nothing — the people who were allegedly wronged get nothing from the courts. It’s just a form of legal extortion by the lawyers.
Remington recently settled a class action suit about Remington 700 (and just about every other bolt-action Remington) safeties. As is usual with these settlements, those who are supposedly victims get next to nothing (there will be a way to send your Remington rifle for new parts and a new, heavier trigger) and the lawyers get piles of sweet cash, which is what you worship instead of God if you are a lawyer.
The lawyers are evil, but not stupid. They know that sooner or later any going concern will pay the Dane-geld. Remington is not stupid either: they calculated the least costly way of making the lawyers go away and clearing this problem from the balance sheet. Shot made.
So, who is stupid? That would be… the press. Who have been, after misreading this story, trumpeting it as a recall of all Remington 700s ever made.
It isn’t, but that didn’t stop Scott Cohn at CNBC from writing an unsupported report claiming the guns were being recalled. CNBC and Cohn have been the happy PR venue for the plaintiffs’ attorneys for years, and they both wave the bloody shirt. (Note that Cohn’s report has been dishonestly stealth-corrected to insert Remington’s and the attorney’s corrections on the “recall” language, subsequent to another story giving — and dismissing — Remington’s point of view).
Is gun. Is not safe. Tell us what’s wrong with this picture:
Among the deaths was nine-year-old Gus Barber of Montana, killed during a family hunting trip in 2000 when his mother switched off the safety on her Remington 700 rifle and the gun went off.
A brief refresher: Rule #1: all guns are loaded; #2: never muzzle anything you don’t intend to destroy; #3, finger off the trigger until sights on target; #4: be sure of your target. Even giving the best possible interpretation of facts, that this was a safety failure and not an inadvertent trigger activation, why was the gun pointed at poor Gus? Why did she take the gun off safe when pointed at her son? And why does Remington get all the blame for that irresponsible and negligent action, the proximate cause of Gus’s demise?
It turns out, she seems to have been perfectly innocent in this case. One of the best reports (i.e., not based on CNBC’s) described the accident in a way that makes us much more sympathetic:
Model 700 rifle fired when Barber’s wife, Barbara, released the safety as she prepared to unload the gun, the family says. The bullet went through a horse trailer and hit Gus, who, unbeknownst to her, had run behind the trailer.
That makes Mrs Barber’s actions look a lot more responsible, and highlights why The Rules can’t always save you, and a mechanical safety — a reliable mechanical safety — is an essential belt to wear with the suspenders of The Rules.
Remington called Cohn’s report “fundamentally inaccurate” and said that, “once again, CNBC did not comply with the most basic tenet of reporting – fact checking.” We’re not sure how Remington got the idea that reporting involves fact checking. For today’s media, it includes finding a story that’s “click-bait that pops” and that meets the “consensus media narrative” on a subject, and then sourcing a few quotes and details to give the advocacy a sheen of truthiness. Most reporters not only refrain from checking facts, they’re not interested in collecting facts and we reckon that eight out of nine of them could not identify a fact in bright sunlight at seven yards.
Remington also had the jaws that CNBC bad-mouthed the 700’s sales record:
[C]ontrary to CNBC’s story, it is undisputed that the Remington Model 700 is the best-selling American-made, bolt-action rifle of all time. The Model 700 has also been and continues to be the tactical sniper rifle of choice for the U.S. armed forces and special operators and is widely used by state and federal law enforcement agencies.
It does appear that some of that language has also been inserted in Cohn’s report.
The original Cohn report was picked up (usually uncredited) by:
- Danielle Haynes at UPI, who at least included the settlement document. Still uncorrected.
- James Kosur at Business2Community. Still uncorrected.
- Jeff Mondlock, WBIR-TV. Still uncorrected.
And many more. Not all reporting on this settlement sucked, though. The Missoulian of Missoula (where else?), Montana, had by far the best report on the settlement, with a fresh interview with Mr Barber, who comes across as a pretty righteous guy, magnanimous in his long-sought victory; and some details on the settlement.
Who Gets What in the Settlement
Because the settlement is being badly misreported, we thought we’d read it and tell you who gets what — and who doesn’t.
- Nobody gets anything until the judge approved the settlement. This is normally a formality, but judges have been known to demur in cases where all benefits accrue to the attorneys. However,
- “Class Members” — Remington owners — get a replacement trigger at Remington’s expense, and a gun-safety DVD. Except…
- Some 700-based actions can’t be retrofitted with Remington’s new trigger. Owners of those guns (600, 660, XP-100, 721, 722, and 725) will get a token “settlement” — a worthless coupon. Oh, they do get the DVD.
- “Representative Plaintiffs” — the eight named plaintiffs who lost family members in gun accidents — get $2,500 each. No, that is not a typo. (We believe that most have previously won other settlements or awards).
- The nine law firms who represented the eight named plaintiffs split $12.5 million within seven days of the approval. This is who the suit benefits, and this is who it was always going to benefit. However, Remington is reserving as much as $17 million for the trigger fixes. They took a charge of $29.5M against earnings last quarter.
- Contrary to several of those media reports, government purchasers at all levels get no trigger repairs. They’re explicitly excluded from the settlement class. Of course, we teach our snipers not to point their M24s at each other, in mistaken trust of the safety catch. (Is gun. Is not safe).
- There are two separate settlements, one for the previously recalled post-2006 XMark Pro trigger, and one for all other 700 series guns going back to the 1940s, but they differ primarily in the technical fix required. The XMark Pro was already recalled to fix assembly problems.
- If current owners don’t put their gun in for repair within 18 months of the judge’s OK, they have no further benefits — and no further right to sue for a trigger or safety failure. Basically, these nine law firms get the money for all potential plaintiffs, for which the potential plaintiffs lose their personal right to sue. That’s how a class action works, and why it’s great for companies and lawyers, and lousy for injured people.
- You only have 21 days from the judge’s approval to file to preserve your personal rights.
- Guns don’t have to go to Remington, there are a large number of authorized service centers that can do the trigger work. Remington will set up a website to direct you to the most convenient site. (Shipping of the firearm is also Remington’s concern).
- If the gun is irreparable, Remington will return it with a notice it is irreparable; or if the gun needs other work to be safe, Remington will notify the owner and ask him to pay for them to proceed. A master gunsmith named Chris Ruger has been named to mediate any disputes that may arise. Since lots of covered guns are Social Security age, they’re probably going to see a few rust ranches and soiled farm implements in those rehab shops.
How common is this problem?
After a decade plus of publicity, the attorneys had eight named plaintiffs and claim to have identified 75 cases of Remington 700s that fired without trigger command, including 24 fatal accidents, in approximately 70 years. Given the sales of the 700 are about 78 million, that is about one ten-thousandth of one percent of Remington 700s, and the likelihood of it happening in any one year is about 1.4 millionths of a percent.
Not common, but extremely serious if it happens to you. Watch your gun muzzle, and watch your backstop. Remember Barbara Barber, who thought her 700 was safe when she flicked the safety on fire to permit unloading (as the old Walker trigger design used to require).
And if you hunt with a 700, like half the hunters in America, you might want to get into the queue as soon as the website is live. It may appear here.
Hat tip, Miguel at Gun Free Zone.