Woman wins lawsuit against gun maker


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Chad
June 16, 2007, 08:06 AM
http://www.macon.com/198/story/68007.html
Woman wins lawsuit against gun maker
By Phillip Ramati - pramati@macontel.com

A Macon woman who lost a child in an accidental shooting in 2000 was one of three people who won a judgment against a gun manufacturer this week.

Linda Bullard, whose 15-year-old son Billy died in 2000 in their Macon home, is due to receive several hundred thousand dollars, her Macon-based attorney Joel Grist said Friday. The exact amount of the judgment is still to be determined, he said.

Bullard was one of three parties who previously sued RKB Investments, an umbrella partnership set up in Florida by California gun manufacturer Bruce Jennings, whose company, Bryco Arms, manufactured handguns known as "Saturday night specials."

"These were the Ford Pintos of firearms," Grist said. "It's great to be able to shut them down after what they've done."

In order to avoid paying the three parties who had sued, RKB Investments filed a suit itself against the three seeking damages from the company, Grist said.

As defendants, Bullard and the others faced the company in United States Bankruptcy Court in the Middle District of Florida in Jacksonville. The lawsuit brought by RKB sought no money, but instead wanted a judge to issue a declaratory judgment action that would have said that only Jennings - not the other partners in RKB - was liable to pay damages in previous lawsuits.

RKB's lawsuit showed that Jennings' company was split among several entities, including ex-wife Janice Jennings and the trust funds of his children.

But according to the judge's ruling, the court not only declined to issue the declaratory judgment action that RKB sought, but also ruled that all of the entities in RKB were liable in the previous lawsuits filed against them.

"(Bruce Jennings) had set up all of these entities in his name, in his ex-wife's name, with his children's trusts," Grist said. "It was all a tangled mess of assets."

Bullard was unavailable for comment Friday.

It has been more than seven years since Billy Bullard's death.

He was killed March 25, 2000, after his older sister, Tiffany Hardware, legally purchased one of the Bryco guns in a local pawn shop for protection, Grist said. Hardware accidentally dropped the gun on a glass table, causing it to discharge, Grist said. The bullet struck Billy Bullard in the aorta, and he died en route to the hospital, Grist said.

Grist said he doesn't expect Linda Bullard or any of the other plaintiffs will see any money - which would be divided from Jennings' estate of $6 million - any time soon. He said Jennings is expected to appeal the verdict, which likely will tie the case up for two more years.

Grist said Bullard's lawsuit wasn't an attempt to curb the rights of gun owners, but rather to get a dangerous product off the streets.

"This has nothing to do with the rights of gun owners," he said. "Nobody should be able to manufacture a defective product."

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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Glockman17366
June 16, 2007, 08:35 AM
I'd say we're not getting the full story here...but if the gun went off when dropped, maybe it's a reasonable judgement.
I know absolutely nothing about Jennings firearms...

Kentak
June 16, 2007, 08:52 AM
It's an article of faith among us gun folks that modern firearms designs are safe and do what they are supposed to do--fire when, and only when, the trigger is pulled. If the gun in question is of poor design, such that a simple dropping could cause it to discharge, then the manufacture shares at least some liability. This does not seem to be the kind of lawsuit against gun makers that seek to hold them liable for the criminal actions of people who use their guns or that they are "inherently" dangerous products.

So, I wouldn't lose too much sleep over this.

K

shooter503
June 16, 2007, 11:07 AM
We don't know the full story but an interesting feature here seems to be that the judge broke the "corporate liability" curtain. Normally, an individual corporation is the only entity that can be sued in the event of a liability situation such as this - that's one reason why corporations exist.

Bullard was one of three parties who previously sued RKB Investments, an umbrella partnership set up in Florida by California gun manufacturer Bruce Jennings, whose company, Bryco Arms, manufactured handguns known as "Saturday night specials.

If I read this properly, this judge has allowed the plaintiff to sue the manufacturer, Bryco, as well as the holding company, RKB. This is normally only allowed in a situation where there was a clear intent by the holding company to protect itself from liability from manufacture of a product, by a subsidiary company, that it knew to be defective.

VARifleman
June 16, 2007, 11:10 AM
She dropped it and it discharged? You know, the other bryco suit involved a babysitter pointing the gun and shooting the son "while trying to unload it". If the reporting is true on it, fine, but I have a sneaking suspicion that she tried to grab it and went off because of that.

Old Fuff
June 16, 2007, 11:42 AM
The Jennings/Bryco pistols were pretty cheap, and generally followed the design of Colt's 1908 Vest Pocket Model - but without the grip safety. What isn't mentioned - and perhaps isn't even known is, "was the manual safety on or off when the gun was dropped?" This could have made a big difference.

But of course when someone does something stupid it's always the gun's fault. :scrutiny:

mbt2001
June 16, 2007, 11:52 AM
I am a fan of Jennings / Lorcin / Bryco / Sundance / Pheonix / Raven / Jimenz.... is that all? Yeah, I think that is all of them. Anyway, I am a fan of those guns. They are cheap, but cheap doesn't mean unsafe. These guns do not have a lot of the bells and whistles that others do, but used SAFELY and that is FOLLOWING THE 4 RULES and carrying conscientiously keeps accidents from happening.

I always carry my lorcins and ravens in Condition 3. A loaded clip in, nothing in the chamber so I have never experienced a discharge when dropping the gun. I admit I have done it twice and have owned them much longer than that. Anyway, they are good guns and fill a nitch.

So flame away, I like em. I recommend them, provided you carry them in condition 3, they are a great always gun.

Chad
June 16, 2007, 12:26 PM
That's the only article I've been able to find. I would like to find some more information as I'm sure there's more to the story, including the other 2 suits.

Does anyone know if records of court proceedings might be available on line?
It would be worth a search if there's a chance they're out there...certainly better information than one news article.

tmajors
June 16, 2007, 01:03 PM
I own two Bryco pistols. One is a Jennings and the other is a Lorcin. The design on them is very poor. But as mentioned above following the 4 rules is most important.

The biggest problems with the pistols that I have seen:

1) The manual safety is a slide block. In order to load a round in the chamber the safety has to be in the OFF position.

2) There is no trigger or firepin safety block of some form. While the manual safety does also prevent you from pulling the trigger it does not block the firing pin in any way so the firing pin can still engage even if the safety is on either through failure of the lever mechanics for the trigger or through firing pin creep. NEVER carry a round in the chamber on one of these pistols.

3) The trigger mechanism is in the dead space between the handle and the grip on the pistol. This means that if the grip becomes loose then all the lever mechanisms for the trigger are exposed or could be jostled easily.

There is a few more things but I haven't touched my Bryco arms for a few years now so can't remember without pulling one out and looking at it again.

Kentak
June 16, 2007, 01:07 PM
So flame away,

No flames. You are allowed to like any kind of gun you want.

But, if the inherent design does not make it safe to carry with a loaded chamber, such that an unintended discharge can occur if the gun is dropped from normal heights, then the gun is dangerous to the shooter, the people around him/her, and jeopardizes all of our gun rights by inviting more regulation. We are better off without them. Would you drive, or let a loved one drive, a car designed so that its safety system (the brakes) didn't engage reliably each and every time they were needed?

I don't care how cheap, fugly, or crappy a gun is. But I shouldn't have to worry I'll get shot if the guy next to me drops it.

K

stellarpod
June 16, 2007, 01:12 PM
In my experience Jennings firearms are absolute bottom-feeders. I could not with good conscience recommend them to anyone. Obviously at least one of the above posters feels otherwise.

I'm finding it hard to shed a tear for a company that builds firearms with such blatant disregard for quality of design and manufacture. All I can say is good riddance.

stellarpod

Firethorn
June 16, 2007, 01:39 PM
tmajors, don't most automatic pistol safties lock the slide up? A quick check on my autos and they're all this way, you cannot load/unload the chamber without taking the safety off.

Still, the lack of a firing pin safety can be a concern.

I'll have to agree with Kentak. Somebody who says they like a gun but still take the precaution of keeping it in condition three isn't actually saying much about the gun's safety.

TallPine
June 16, 2007, 04:28 PM
Would you drive, or let a loved one drive, a car designed so that its safety system (the brakes) didn't engage reliably each and every time they were needed?
Hey, isn't that what they make manual transmissions for ...? :D

I used to work for some folks that had some old trucks that they just used on their own property. The way you stopped was to double clutch into low gear and cut the ignition ;)

Old Fuff
June 16, 2007, 04:54 PM
Well to be honest, all of the Browning-designed pistols, from the little .25's to the big .45's require that the manual safety be "off" before the slide can be cycled by hand. At one time or another I have used all of the Browning/Colt's and some of those made by Fabrique National (FN)

I suppose I shouldn't have because they are so obviously unsafe... :scrutiny:

arjppj
June 16, 2007, 05:06 PM
my dad has a jennings and its a DOA with an internal hammer, so dropping it would not cause the hammer to go back and then forward...but maybe it did happen, maybe she was showing it to him and shot him???

gc70
June 16, 2007, 09:38 PM
don't most automatic pistol safties lock the slide up? A quick check on my autos and they're all this way, you cannot load/unload the chamber without taking the safety off.

The safeties on S&W 3rd Generation autos do not lock the slide. However, it is disconcerting to chamber a round with the safety on and have the hammer follow the slide forward.

Fburgtx
June 16, 2007, 09:58 PM
Don't know the specifics of the case, but regarding the corporate structure of the company,it looks kind of shady. Let's see, there was Jennings/Bryco/Raven/Phoenix. Every time the company gets a major lawsuit, it folds, then changes its name or shifts ownership to a different member of the family. Look up the history of these companies. I think poor people should have just as much access to firearms as rich folks, but the way these companies have been established/folded doesn't do much for their reputation.

Soybomb
June 16, 2007, 10:00 PM
You know, the other bryco suit involved a babysitter pointing the gun and shooting the son "while trying to unload it". If the reporting is true on it, fine, but I have a sneaking suspicion that she tried to grab it and went off because of that.
Thats what I was thinking also.

I'm under the impression not all of these guns are drop safe, but I also thought we were talking about a several foot drop. The coffee table just seems odd...

jaholder1971
June 16, 2007, 11:46 PM
Bottom line: His sister killed her brother. Sue her.

Aguila Blanca
June 17, 2007, 12:01 AM
Still, the lack of a firing pin safety can be a concern.
:confused:

The M1911 didn't have a firing pin safety for most of its existence. Colt experimented with a firing pin safety on a few commercial 1911s prior to WW2, but the military never adopted it and Colt never used the Swartz safety again. Colt did adopt a different type of FP safety around 1980, but even today they don't use it on all their pistols. Some 1911 manufacturers today use firing pin safeties, while other major manufacturers (such as Springfield Armory) don't. And it has been demonstrated that it is effectively impossible to make a 1911 fire by dropping it.

So why is lack of a firing pin safety a concern?

obxned
June 17, 2007, 12:11 AM
I do NOT think a fall of 2' or less would cause any gun to fire. I do not think the force involved is enough to dent the primer enough to even make an easily visible mark. Something about this smells like raw sewage.

Dustinthewind
June 17, 2007, 02:26 AM
Yet another give me money for my own stupidity lawsuit. It is just another case of denying ones own personal responsibility. Yes, Jennings, Raven, Lorcin are cheap made guns and probably shouldn't be carried with a chambered round, but the accident was caused by mishandling. I know a guy that shot himself with his shotgun when he dropped it while crossing a fence. Was it the manufacturers fault or his?

Soybomb
June 17, 2007, 03:21 AM
do NOT think a fall of 2' or less would cause any gun to fire.
This gentleman has setup a test rig to test drop firing of some pistols http://www.1bad69.com/keltec/droptest.htm Note that on the results page his 1927 1911 fired at 2 feet and higher.

Clipper
June 17, 2007, 07:25 AM
The Phoenix is a nice pistol, I hope it can remain in production. Lots of guns can discharge if dropped or otherwise improperly handled, so what about all the old S&Ws, Colts and other revolvers with hammer-mounted firing pins? We gonna start seeing these being sued? I hope the suit gets thrown out on appeal...

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