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"Gun enthusiast" who lost an eye cannot sue manufacturer or gun owner

Lynn Walton sued his friend Larry Miller, Midway Arms and Pacific Tool & Die after Miller's rifle exploed while Walton was firing it.  Walton, who lost an eye,  argued that Miller was negligient in placing a slot in the rifle chamber to accommodate a Sako-style exctractor; he argued that the other Defendants (who designed and built the extractor) were negligent in selling a product that was unsafe and prone to foreseeable mis-use by gun owner-purchasers.

Unfortunately for Walton, however, the evidence showed that he was over-charging the cartridges he re-loaded and fired.  Even his expert refused to agree that it was foreseeable that gun enthusiasts would over-charge cartridges to the extent Walton over-charged his.  Further, while Miller's modification of the rifle made it more likely to blow up on Walton, and while Miller knew that Walton re-loaded cartridges, Miller was a tool and die maker who did not recognize the danger associated with his extractor installation or the degree of Walton's over-charging of cartridges.

Since Walton could not prove that the manufacturer-sellers of the extractor should have foreseen the degree of over-charging that he engaged in, the Court held that they owed no duty to design the extractor to withstand these forces or to warn of the danger.  Rather Walton's over-charging constituted "unforeseeable misuse" of the product, eliminating any product liability.  The same over-charging, in the Court's opinion, defeated any negligence claim against Miller.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
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