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Wednesday, June 12, 2024 | Back issues
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Accidental Death Claims Reloaded Against Gun Co.

(CN) - An Alabama woman whose husband was shot to death while hunting alone can continue her product liability action against the rifle manufacturer, the 11th Circuit ruled.

Cynthia Seamon became worried when her husband, Kenneth, did not respond to her texts while he was on a deer hunting trip in November 2011.

When Cynthia and her son-in-law went to investigate, they found that Seamon had died in his tree stand from a gunshot wound to the chest.

Police officers found his Remington Model 700 bolt-action rifle on the ground attached to a rope. They determined that it was at least five to 10 feet away from Seamon when it discharged.

Cynthia filed a product liability lawsuit against Remington Arms Company on behalf of herself and her husband's estate in Middle Alabama Federal Court.

The court ruled in Remington's favor after granting the company's motion to exclude the testimony of Charles Powell, Cynthia's liability expert. He had stated that the rifle fired due to a defect in its trigger system.

However, the 11th Circuit overturned the decision on Wednesday, allowing Cynthia to continue her case.

Judge Eduardo Robreno disagreed with the lower court's finding that Powell's opinion was unreliable because he did not account for other causes of the shooting and he had based his opinion on facts not in the record.

"We hold that both of these conclusions are manifestly erroneous because they mischaracterize Powell's opinion and the evidence supporting it, and thus that the district court abused its discretion by excluding Powell's testimony," Robreno wrote on behalf of a three-judge panel.

Robreno added that Powell successfully debunked Remington's theory that the trigger was pulled to deliver the fatal shot, and that the rifle instead went off while it was being lowered or raised.

"The record supports this conclusion," the judge wrote. "The lack of gunshot residue on Mr. Seaman's body suggests that he did not pull the trigger himself."

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