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Humphrey v. Remington Arms Company, LLC

United States District Court, Ninth Circuit

April 29, 2013

BRADLEY HUMPHREY and DIANNA HUMPHREY, Plaintiffs,
v.
REMINGTON ARMS COMPANY, LLC, SPORTING GOODS PROPERTIES, INC., and E.I. DuPONT DE NEMOURS AND COMPANY, Defendants.

ORDER

RICHARD F. CEBULL, Senior District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss arguing Plaintiffs' claims are time-barred by the three-year Montana statute of limitations; and neither the "discovery rule" nor the "fraudulent concealment" doctrines apply to legally excuse Plaintiffs' failure to file their lawsuit within the time required by Montana law. Plaintiffs oppose Defendants' motion for the reason that Plaintiffs did not discover that Remington Model 700 action rifles were defective until October 2010 and Defendants have gone to great lengths to conceal the defective design of the Remington Model 700 rifle.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The shooting which is the subject of this lawsuit occurred on November 29, 1989. See Complaint. Plaintiffs allege that a Remington Model 700 rifle fired "without a trigger pull, " resulting in a gunshot wound to Plaintiff Brad Humphrey. Id. Plaintiffs allege that their son, the gun handler, "Trev Kohr was getting back in the passenger side of the pickup when he slipped and the Rifle discharged." Id. "The bullet entered Brad Humphrey's right flank striking his spine" causing lower body paralysis. Id. Shortly before the shooting, Brad Humphrey and Trev Kohr had been hunting and driving in a pickup truck, exiting and re-entering the pickup truck, attempting to shoot an elk. Id.

On September 22, 2012, Plaintiffs filed their lawsuit against Defendants. Plaintiffs assert the following Montana state law causes of action: strict liability for defective design and failure to warn (Counts I and II); common law negligence (Count III); and loss of consortium (Count IV).

ANALYSIS

A claim is subject to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) Fed.R.Civ.P. if it lacks a cognizable legal theory. Johnson v. Riverside Healthcare System, LP, 534 F.3d 1116, 1121-22 (9th Cir. 2008). Where allegations in a complaint "show that relief is barred by the applicable statute of limitations, the complaint is subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim[.]" Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 215 (2007). Under Rule 12(b)(6), factual allegations in a complaint are presumed true and reasonable inferences are made in favor of the non-moving party. Rhodes v. Robinson, 408 F.3d 559, 563 (9th Cir. 2005).

As stated by the Montana Supreme Court, statute of limitations are vital to the system of justice:

Statutes of limitation are vital to the welfare of society and are favored in the law. They are found and approved in all systems of enlightened jurisprudence. They promote repose by giving security and stability to human affairs. An important public policy lies at their foundation. They stimulate to activity and punish negligence. While time is constantly destroying the evidence of rights, they supply its place by a presumption which renders proof unnecessary. Mere delay, extending to the limit prescribed, is itself a conclusive bar. The bane and antidote go together. (Citation omitted).

Much v. Strum, Ruger & Co., Inc., 502 F.Supp. 743, 745 (D.Mont. 1980), aff'd, 685 F.2d 444 (9th Cir. 1982). Failure to file within the statute of limitations precludes a defendant from adequately investigating an incident in order to provide a defense.

Plaintiffs assert the "discovery rule" applies and excuses the delay in the filing because Plaintiff did not learn about the alleged defects in Remington rifles until sometime after October 2010, when a relative told Brad Humphrey about the CNBC television program entitled "Remington Under Fire." The television program purportedly documented design defects with Remington Model 700 rifles. Plaintiffs had no actual knowledge of the Remington Model 700's alleged design defects prior to being told about the CNBC television program and state they "could not have discovered these defects by using reasonable diligence." Complaint ΒΆ 32.

The "discovery rule" and "fraudulent concealment" doctrine are codified at ...


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