HELENA – The Remington Arms Co. has reached a nationwide settlement of claims that most of its Model 700 bolt-action hunting rifles have a defective trigger mechanism – a settlement likely to include the recall of millions of the popular firearm.
Attorneys for Remington and the plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit against the company did not respond Monday to requests for comment on a “notice of settlement” filed last week in federal court in Missouri.
Yet Richard Barber, a Montana man who’s been saying for a dozen years that many of the Model 700 are defective and should be recalled, indicated Monday that a recall is part of the settlement.
“It does accomplish what I want to accomplish,” he told the Lee Newspapers State Bureau. “I guess it’s safe to say, it’s better late than never. …
“As a whole, (the settlement) represents the best interests of the public. It will save lives, it will save limbs.”
The lawsuit says more than 5 million Model 700 bolt-action rifles have been sold since 1962.
Barber’s 9-year-old son, Gus, was killed by a Model 700 rifle in a 2000 hunting accident in Montana. The family says the rifle fired when Barber’s wife, Barbara, released the safety as she prepared to unload the weapon. The bullet passed through a horse trailer and hit Gus, who was standing behind the trailer.
For more than a decade, Barber investigated the rifle’s trigger mechanism, compiled company internal documents and worked as a consultant on lawsuits from Model 700 owners whose rifle fired without the trigger being pulled.
He concluded that a defect in the Walker Fire Control on the trigger mechanism led to the incidents, sometimes causing the weapon to fire when the safety was released or the bolt was opened or closed.
The Walker Fire Control has been installed on Remington Model 700s and some other Remington rifle models since the 1940s. The company introduced a new fire-control mechanism, the X-Mark Pro, in 2006.
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Barber, contacted by telephone Monday, declined to discuss details of the settlement, saying he doesn’t want to harm discussions still under way between the plaintiffs and the company.
The settlement notice, filed last Wednesday, is in a class-action lawsuit filed January 2013 in U.S. District Court in Missouri, by Ian Pollard, who purchased a Remington Model 700 rifle in 2000 in Belle, Mo.
Pollard’s lawsuit, filed against Remington and two affiliated companies, Sporting Goods Properties and E.I. DuPont, said his rifle had fired three times without him pulling the trigger, twice when the safety was released and once when the bolt was opened.
“Defendants have known since 1979 that at least 1 percent of all Model 700 rifles at that time would `trick,’ allowing them to fire unexpectedly without a trigger pull,” the suit said. “(Pollard) contends that this percentage is vastly understated and that all Model 700 rifles are subject to unexpected firing without a trigger pull.”
Pollard’s lawsuit asked the court to declare all Model 700 bolt-action rifles with a Walker Fire Control to be defective and to order Remington to recall those models. It also asked for compensatory and punitive damages against the company.
Last week’s notice said a settlement agreement will be submitted to U.S. District Court in Missouri by Oct. 30, after which the court will decide whether to approve it.
The Pollard suit is one of at least three class-action suits filed in federal court against Remington involving the Model 700.
Barber said Monday if the settlement is approved, he’ll end his nearly 14-year quest to investigate his son’s death, identify who’s responsible and make sure gun owners are protected from any similar accident.
“I’m preparing to walk away from this and not look back,” he said. “If these things come to pass, then Remington is doing what it needs to do for them to move forward, and I want to move forward as well. I think my work will be completed.”