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Products Liability: Firearms and Explosives

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What Are the Laws Regarding Firearms or Explosives?

The laws regarding explosives and firearms covers all dangerous substances, including gasoline, dynamite, oil, guns, and blasting material. Governments regulate the handling, storing, transportation, and the use of explosive substances. All states require a person or a business to obtain a permit before using explosives or firearms in any way. State and local laws punish any person or business that uses, stores, sales, and transports explosives without a license. 

Can a Manufacturer Be Liable for Defects?

Yes, if the product was negligently manufactured and resulted in harm upon use. Unlike some products, defective firearms and explosives do NOT make a manufacturer strictly liable for resulting injuries. In order for an injured person to recover, a plaintiff suing for damages resulting from a licensed explosion must show:

  1. The manufacturer failed to exercise reasonable care in producing the firearm or explosive
  2. The manufacturer failed to comply with statutes and regulations
  3. The explosion was the proximate or actual cause of the plaintiffs injury
  4. The plaintiff suffered damages as a result of the explosion

The manufacturers of explosives are held to a higher standard of care than wholesalers and sellers of explosives. Manufacturers of explosives must always provide safety instructions for their products before they place the product in the stream of commerce.

What Is Considered "Reasonable Care" for Firearm and Explosive Manufacturers?

Reasonable care can vary greatly depending on the type of firearm or explosive being used, and the level of danger it presents. Some of the more common requirements for reasonable care include:

  • Limiting additional ingredients in explosives that increase their dangerousness
  • A reasonable inspection of the firearm or explosive to discover potential defects
  • Reasonable testing of the firearm or explosive to ensure safe and proper usage
  • Warning customers of potential dangers from use of firearm or explosive (within reasonable limits)
  • Complying wit all statutes and regulations regarding licensed explosives
  • Providing general safety instructions regarding handling of product, storage of product, and use of product.

What If the Injured Person Is Not the Original Purchaser?

States vary on whether recovery for injury from a defective firearm or explosive extends beyond the person who originally bought the product. Some states only allow purchasers to be compensated for any injuries, while others don’t. Other states even provide specific laws and statutes that define who can recover for injuries from a defective firearm or explosive.

What Are the Defenses to Firearm and Explosives Liability?

A defendant who is subject to an explosives case may use contributory negligence as a defense if the plaintiff contributed to his or her injury in some way. In some states if the plaintiff was contributory negligent in any way, they are precluded from any recovery. However, in majority of states, comparative negligence is used and the amount of recovery is reduced by the amount that the plaintiff contributed to his or her own injury.

A defendant can also use the assumption of risk defense. Under the defense of assumption of risk, the defendant may argue that the injured plaintiff had knowledge of the risks and dangers involved, but chose to disregard the warnings given.

How Can a Lawyer Help Me?

If you were injured as a result of a defective firearm or explosive you should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can inform you about specific products liability laws in your state, as well as the success rate of cases similar to yours.

Photo of page author Kourosh Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 11-10-2014 10:57 AM PST

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