Suit blames man's accidental shooting on negligence of gun maker

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Sep. 23, 2009, 6:34pm

EL DORADO, Ark. � Ryan Alex Craig was shooting target practice with a semi-automatic rifle in 2005 when the gun unexpectedly discharged as he attempted to chamber a round. Craig was fatally wounded when he was struck by a part of the ammunition's shell casing.

Tony Craig, administrator of the estate of Ryan Alex Craig and on behalf of the deceased's beneficiaries, filed suit against Southern Ohio Gun Distributors, Inc., Steve Craig's Pawn and Gun, Sporting Supplies International Inc., Shooters Surplus Ammo and John Does 1-10.

The suit was originally filed June 12, 2008, in the Ashley County Circuit Court of Arkansas. Third-party defendant China North Industries Corporation removed the case to the El Dorado Division of the Western District of Arkansas on Sept. 17.

The deceased's father bought the Norinco Sporter E-West Laca 7.62 x 39 mm semi-automatic rifle in 1992 from Steve Craig's Pawn and Gun.

Tony Craig states that pawnshop received the gun from Southern Ohio Gun distributors, which shipped the gun without a user's manual or operating instructions. Tony Craig bought full metal jacket ammunition from Sporting Supplies at a 2004 gun show in Little Rock.

According to court records, Ryan Craig attempted to chamber a round of ammunition without first making sure the chamber was empty. The gun unexpectedly discharged.

The plaintiff claims the defendants are guilty of negligence for:

Failing to warn that the gun could unexpectedly discharge even when the safety was on;

Failing to provide an owner's manual;

Failing to warn what to do in the event of a misfire; and

Failing to warn that the gun required special attention to remove the magazine prior to an attempt to chamber a round of ammunition.

The complaint states that the defendants "Failed to warn Plaintiff that there was a serious risk of unintentional discharge and bodily injury or death of a live round was attempted to be chambered without first ensuring the barrel and chamber were clear."

The plaintiff also alleges the defendants failed to adequately warn that the use of full metal jack ammunition would increase the risk of serious injury or death and require the removal of the magazine clip prior to any attempt to chamber a round of ammunition.

Causes of action filed against the defendants include breach of warranty, negligence for failure to warn, negligence in the design, manufacture, and sale of the gun and strict liability.

The plaintiff is seeking punitive damages, arguing that the defendants "willfully and wantonly" failing to recall the products and failing to fully investigate similar incidents.

On behalf of the estate, the plaintiff is seeking damages for medical, nursing and funeral expenses, value of lost of earnings, conscious pain and suffering, scars and disfigurement, funeral expenses, property damages, and decedent's loss of life.

Southern Ohio Distributors denies the plaintiff's allegations and asserts that Craig misused the product by attempting to load another round of ammunition into the chamber before first removing the previous round.

The remaining defendants also deny the plaintiff's allegations.

Arkadelphia attorney Travis R. Berry of the Wright, Berry, Hughes and Moore law firm is representing the plaintiff.

U.S. District Judge Harry F. Barnes will preside over the litigation.

Case No 1:09cv01045

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