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Dealers on trial: a spotlight on litigation.

Holsters Bring New Ground For Legal Battles

As with any damage and personal injury legal matters, whether product liability or otherwise, many cases end up broader in scope than the facts first suggest. There may be contributing causes in an accident other than the firearm itself.

Matching the right holster to the gun is one example where a "duty of care" can affect the local retail seller as well as a manufacturer. The extent of a legal duty, to whom it's owed, and under what circumstances it arises, are issues running through virtually every firearm-related product liability case.

Typically the basic question, particularly in consumer products litigation, is: Which party was better able to recognize a risk associated with a certain product under normal use conditions and better able to eliminate or reduce this risk?

As experienced sellers know, firearm accidents are very often caused by dropped guns. People should not drop guns just as they should not drop dishes. For the most part they know that dishes shouldn't be dropped for the same reason -- they may be damaged, broken, or defaced.

The handle of a cup may not be appropriate or of sufficient design to really secure the cup. Similarly, a certain type of holster or carrying case sold for or with a firearm may be inappropriate and unsafe and thus contribute to dropping a weapon and/or causing an accidental discharge.

In such an instance the seller may have breached a duty of reasonable care toward the buyer (or others foreseeably endangered) by failing to match the gun with an adequate and reliable holster. It may excuse the conduct of the purchaser/handler who was justified, unless otherwise warned, in trusting in the security of the holster or carrying case.

Of course, a defective holster (or case) doesn't excuse its manufacturer for bearing a substantial share of any legal responsibility, or the firearm manufacturer if the firearm itself is found defective, but the retail dealer could still be drawn into the fray.

Remember, today a large segment of buyers are not very familiar with the vast array of weapons being offered for sale and cannot be held to have a great appreciation of inherent risks in weapon possessions and use. Courts increasingly find consumers to have relied upon expertise of dealers at point of purchase and so, to some degree, may hold them responsible too for unfortunate mishaps.

Bottom line: The greater chance of injury the greater duty the law places upon manufacturers and sellers. Fully warning buyers of "carrying" risks by dealers and advising of proper gun accessories could substantially lessen the dealer's risk of being included in litigation.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Industry News
Author:Wenner, Joan
Publication:Shooting Industry
Date:May 1, 1993
Previous Article:$750 FFL bill may change the face of the shooting industry.
Next Article:Accessories may be your main sale.

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