BOISE, Idaho – Remington Arms Co., maker of one of America’s most-popular hunting rifles, is in court again, this time with an Idaho lawsuit filed by a man who says he was shot through the foot by a defective weapon.
Loren Korpi, an Oregon resident, said in U.S. District Court in Boise he was hunting a year ago in southwestern Idaho when a Remington 700 bolt action rifle wounded him without the trigger being pulled.
Korpi’s case joins dozens of similar claims across the country filed against Remington over the past three decades. They contend its Model 700 bolt-action rifle, with more than 5 million sold since the 1940s, has a flawed trigger mechanism that the company has known about for years.
“It’s fascinating what I believe is a truly defective product can continue to be made by a company staffed with good people,” Timothy Monsees, a Kansas City-based lawyer who represents Korpi, said on Friday.
Monsees has claims pending against Remington in South Dakota, Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma. All were brought by people who say they were injured by guns that misfired.
Additionally, he represents class-action lawsuits in Washington and Missouri filed by Remington Model 700 owners who say the company should cover their losses because faulty trigger assemblies make their rifles worthless. In August, a federal judge in Washington refused Remington’s bid to dismiss the complaint.
Remington, controlled by New York-based buyout company Cerberus Capital Management, didn’t immediately return phone calls Friday seeking comment.
Korpi also couldn’t be reached at his home in Warrenton, in western Oregon.
But in his complaint, filed Tuesday, he says he was hunting with his brother, Mark Korpi, in Idaho’s Elmore County on Oct. 28, 2012. Back at camp, according to court documents, Mark Korpi was trying to unload his 1970s-era Remington Model 700 bolt-action rifle.
“When he pushed the safety forward, the rifle fired,” the lawsuit contends. “The trigger was not pulled or contacted in any manner, but instead the rifle fired as a result of being moved due to forces exerted on the fire control system during this process of pushing the safety forward. The bullet … travelled into Loren’s left leg, ankle and foot, ultimately causing serious permanent injury and scarring.”
Remington’s Model 700, manufactured at the 197-year-old U.S. company’s factory in Ilion, N.Y., has attracted numerous lawsuits over the years, among them a 1994 Texas case in which a jury awarded some $17 million to a man who lost his foot.
But Remington has also won cases, too, by blaming gun owners, not a defective trigger mechanism.
In 2010, it issued a statement saying its Model 700 had been “free of defect” since it was produced in 1948. “The gun’s use by millions of Americans has proven it to be a safe, trusted and reliable rifle,” the company wrote in response to news reports at the time.
Monsees counters that Remington long knew the Model 700’s fire control was defective and points to internal documents, including a 1979 memo, where Remington executives suggest 20,000 of the 2 million Model 700 rifles sold by then could be “tricked” into firing without pulling the trigger.
According to the memo that’s been incorporated into lawsuits, company leaders then opted not to recall the rifles, in part, because it “would undercut the message we plan to communicate to the public concerning proper gun handling.”
“Why, after years of these injuries, did they not correct the problem sooner? Why have they not recalled the older rifles?” Monsees said Friday. “It’s a curiosity beyond belief.”
His Idaho lawsuit also names E.I. DuPont de Nemours Inc., which owned Remington before 1993.