Two Remington rifle owners are asking a federal judge to revisit a landmark class action settlement involving millions of allegedly defective guns. This, after CNBC reported that multiple customers have complained to the company about their guns malfunctioning even after they were repaired under the settlement.
The case involves Remington’s iconic Model 700 rifle and a dozen other Remington firearms with similar designs. Since 2010, CNBC has been investigating allegations that the company covered up a design defect that allows the guns to fire without the trigger being pulled. Lawsuits have linked the alleged defect to dozens of deaths and hundreds of serious injuries.
Madison, North Carolina-based Remington has consistently maintained that the guns are safe and free of defects. But in late 2014, the company agreed in a class-action settlement to replace the firing mechanisms on millions of firearms, free of charge, to avoid protracted litigation.
As the April 23 deadline to file a claim under the settlement approached, CNBC reported that several customers who had already taken advantage of the offer said that their retrofitted guns were malfunctioning. While it is unclear how many guns were affected, CNBC reviewed nearly a dozen customer complaints filed with the company.
CNBC also reported that many of the Remington Authorized Service Centers that were designated under the settlement to perform the repairs were either closed or operating with reduced hours because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Nonetheless, the April 23 deadline was unchanged, and the official settlement website now says that the claims period has ended.
But Lewis Frost, a deputy sheriff in Louisiana who owns three Model 700s, and Richard Denney, an Oklahoma attorney who also owns three 700s, are asking the federal judge who approved the settlement to consider reopening the case in light of CNBC’s reporting.
“There is an obvious increased danger of unwarranted reliance on the safety of the replacement trigger mechanism because that repair is wrapped in the authority of the court,” wrote an attorney for the pair in a court filing. “Here the court-approved repair apparently does not eliminate the danger/defect.”
The filing by New Orleans attorney Gary Gambel asks U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith in Missouri to convene a hearing to determine how to proceed, and to seek information from Remington and the class action plaintiffs.
Gambel also asks the judge to investigate whether the pandemic-related closures of some repair centers have affected the process.
Attorneys for Remington did not respond to CNBC’s request for a comment on the motion, which was filed on May 7 but was not entered in the court docket until last week.
An attorney for the class action plaintiffs, Eric Holland in St. Louis, said he and the other plaintiffs’ attorneys had no information about guns malfunctioning after being repaired, despite extensive contact with customers throughout the claims process.
“Our firms collectively received hundreds of calls regarding the settlement,” Holland said in an email. “To date, not one putative class member has contacted any of us regarding any allegations of any retrofitted firearms misfiring.”
He also said that the pandemic has had little effect on the process, other than some repairs being “temporarily delayed.”
“Remington has been and continues to make repairs on any claims of affected firearms filed by April 23, 2020,” Holland said.
Holland is one of 13 plaintiffs’ attorneys in eight states who shared $12.5 million in fees under the settlement.
Frost and Denney are longtime critics of the settlement, which they said did not do enough to warn the public about the risks the guns allegedly posed. But Smith approved the settlement over their objections, and a federal appeals panel upheld his ruling in 2018.
The settlement covered some 7.5 million Remington firearms produced as early as 1948. But it remains unclear how many owners ultimately filed claims, or even knew about the trigger replacement offer in the first place. As of February 2017 — the last time claims data was reported to the court — only about 22,000 claims had been filed. A spokesperson for Philadelphia-based Angeion Group, which Smith appointed to administer the claims process, has not responded to multiple requests by CNBC for more recent claim numbers.
In addition to the Model 700 rifle, the settlement covers Remington bolt-action rifle models Seven, Sportsman 78, 673, 710, 715, 770, 600, 660, 721, 722, 725 and the XP-100 bolt action pistol.
While the settlement offer for most of those guns has expired, the website notes that a voluntary recall remains in effect for certain Model 700 rifles produced between 2006 and 2014. For those guns, the company acknowledges that “excess bonding agent” applied to the trigger mechanism during manufacturing could cause the guns to fire without the trigger being pulled. The company urges owners of those guns to stop using them, and contact Remington for repairs.