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Understanding Gun Manufacturer Liability for Injuries

Understanding Gun Manufacturer Liability for Injuries

Firearms are inherently dangerous devices. Whether accidental or intentional, injuries from firearms can have long-lasting consequences for victims. In some cases, the role of the firearm itself in contributing to the injury can become a focus, especially if a defect in the gun’s design or manufacturing played a significant role. People injured by guns should take a moment to understand how Nevada law limits gun manufacturer liability.

Nevada shields gun manufacturers from some types of liability

In Nevada a gun manufacturer cannot be sued solely because its product was involved in an injury. Under NRS 41.131, manufacturers and distributors of firearms and ammunition are shielded against lawsuits that are based solely on the theory that the gun or ammunition was dangerous, was discharged, and was the legal (or proximate) cause of the injury. Although the statute explicitly does not limit suits that allege design or manufacturing defects (see below), the mere fact that guns are dangerous cannot be used to establish that a specific firearm is improperly designed.

The practical consequence of NRS 41.131 is that any lawsuit against a gun manufacturer needs to be based on more facts than just a causal relationship between the gun and an injury. The fact that a gun works as designed—that is, it fires the ammunition loaded in its chamber when the trigger is compressed—isn’t enough to support a lawsuit. This is true even if the gun is used by someone unexpected, like a child who accidentally gets ahold of it. Although in such situations other theories may apply, like the negligence of the gun owner who didn’t lock up a loaded weapon, the gun manufacturer is shielded from liability.

Guns and products liability

NRS 41.131 leaves open the possibility of lawsuits against gun manufacturers for manufacturing and design defects. Nevada’s products liability laws provide consumers with powerful legal tools for recovering compensation in appropriate cases. Like any manufacturer of consumer goods, a gun manufacturer can be liable for a defective weapon provided the defect existed when it was in the manufacturer’s possession, the injured plaintiff was using the gun in a reasonably foreseeable way, and the defect caused the plaintiff’s injury. Ginnis v. Mapes Hotel Corp., 86 Nev. 408 (1970); Nev. J.I. 7.02.

Examples of actionable gun defects might include a chamber that explodes when a bullet is fired, or an imperfect barrel that causes an explosive misfire. Needless to say, such defects are rare. Note that manufacturers probably aren’t responsible for defects introduced by modifications to a weapon. Also note that manufacturers are not responsible for injuries from an unforeseeable use of a gun. Someone who uses a loaded gun barrel as a smoking pipe probably bears responsibility for the resulting injury.

The GGRM law firm can answer your questions

Suing a gun manufacturer requires a careful examination of the facts surrounding a firearm injury. The attorneys at Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez have helped personal injury clients recover awards for over 45 years. If you have questions about a gun-related injury we are happy to review your case and answer your questions. For a no-cost attorney consultation, call us today at 702-388-4476, or ask us to call you through our contact page.