The Remington Model 700 bolt-action rifle has been one of the company’s best-selling models since it was introduced in the late 1940s, but for decades lawsuits have alleged that a design flaw in the rifle has been covered up by the company and has led to “dozens of deaths and hundreds of injuries”. According to the lawsuits, the design flaw makes the gun unsafe because the gun can fire without the trigger being pulled.
Remington has publicly maintained that the guns are safe and free of defects, but in 2014 the company agreed to replace the triggers in nearly 7 million guns (the Model 700, Seven, Sportsman 78, 673, 710, 715 and 770) for those who file a claim. Now, according to CNBC, the public can view more than 130,000 internal company documents concerning the safety of the Model 700 and other rifles. The “Remington Rifle Trigger Defect Documents” were made available by Public Justice and include a searchable database. The website notes that “all owners of these rifles should stop using them and file a claim to protect themselves, their family, friends and loved ones.”
According to CNBC, the documents indicate that Remington engineers noted a “very dangerous” situation in 1947, but that officials did not implement a design change and the rifle was placed on the market. In 1995, the company drafted a consumer warning but never sent it out. The warning read as follows: “The gun may accidentally fire when you move the safety from the ‘safe’ position to the ‘fire’ position, or when you close the bolt.” While the company considered recall proposals over the years, they did not act on the recalls.
In general, companies in product liability cases are able to secure a court-imposed protective order that allows them to keep information, such as the documents in the Public Justice Remington database, hidden from the public. The main reason these protective orders are granted is to help companies protect trade secrets and proprietary information. In the 2014 Remington class action case however, the judge did not rule for a protective order because “there is a strong public interest in not allowing the Court’s orders to be used as a shield that precludes disclosure of this danger.” For that reason, Public Interest was able to gain access to the company documents via the Freedom of Information Act and share them with the public.