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Teague v. Remington Arms Co., LLC

United States District Court, D. Montana, Missoula Division

April 11, 2019

SHARON TEAGUE and RANDALL TEAGUE, Individually, and in their official capacity as Co-Personal Representatives of the ESTATE OF MARK RANDALL TEAGUE, Plaintiffs,
v.
REMINGTON ARMS COMPANY, LLC, REMINGTON OUTDOOR COMPANY, INC., SPORTING GOODS PROPERTIES, INC., E.I. DU PONT DE NEMOURS & COMPANY, DOES A TO K, Defendants.

          ORDER

          DANA L. CHRISTENSEN, CHIEF JUDGE

         Before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (Doc. 3) of Defendants E.I. DuPont De Nemours & Company; Remington Arms Company, LLC; Remington Outdoor Company, Inc.; and Sporting Goods Properties, Inc. (collectively, "Remington"). Remington contends that Plaintiffs Sharon and Randall Teague have failed to state a claim for relief under Montana products liability law, and it asks the Court to dismiss the Teagues' Complaint with prejudice. The Teagues have plausibly alleged that a design defect in a Remington rifle caused the death of their son, Mark. Thus, the Court denies the motion.

         BACKGROUND [1]

         I. The Death of Mark Sears

         At 6:30 a.m. on the morning of November 3, 2015, 16-year-old Mark Teague was awakened by his mother, Sharon. (Doc. 1 at 11.) Mark's father, Randy, found Mark dozing in a chair in the living room shortly afterward. (Id. at 12.) Randy greeted his son and said, "It's time to wake up and get ready for school." (Id. at 12.) Mark "responded as he always did." (Id.)

         Randy went to the bathroom to brush his teeth. (Id.) He heard a loud noise and, thinking that something large had fallen, walked into the living room to investigate. (Id.) Mark was in the same chair he had been sitting in minutes earlier, his Remington Model 700 bolt action hunting rifle between his knees. (Id. at 10-12.) The sound Randy had heard was the rifle firing-Mark had suffered a massive gunshot wound to the face and head, and he was dead. (Id. at 12.) The investigating coroner classified the death as suicide. (Doc. 4-1.)

         Looking back, Mark's family has not identified risk factors for suicide, and it does not think that it ignored any red flags. The night before his death, Mark watched a Monday night football game with Randy before playing video games, his new kitten curled up in his lap. (Doc. 1 at 11.) Sharon, a school teacher for nearly three decades, is trained to identify risk factors among teens. (Id. at 12.) On the morning of Mark's death, she found Mark to be upbeat and free of signs indicating that he may be suicidal. (Id.)

         Mark had been a successful student, and he was active in his community. (Id. at 9-11.) He was playing junior varsity and varsity football during the fall of 2015, and he was also a strong asset to his school's track and field team. (Id. at 9.) A member of 4-H since the age of nine, Mark had recently bought a steer to raise. (Id.) He also had a summer job at a local ranch, mending fences and putting up hay alongside his brother, Matt. (Id.) In the months prior to his death, Mark had not only gotten his driver's license but also inherited his sister's old truck. (Id.)

         The Teagues were avid hunters, and Mark was gearing up for hunting season in early November 2015. (Id. at 10-11.) Mark and Matt had gotten their tags for the 2015 season, and they had sighted in their rifles a few times prior to Mark's death. (Id. at 11.) On November 1, 2015, the brothers went out hunting in the rain, to no success-the only thing Mark shot at that day was a squirrel. (Id.) When they came home, Mark and Matt stood their guns up along the wall inside the house so that they could dry. (Id.)

         The family had strict rules about firearm storage and handling, but Mark apparently failed to unload the rifle when he came home on November 1. (Id. at 12.) The Teagues allege that Mark remembered that his gun was still loaded on the morning of November 3. (Id.) They claim that the gun went off on its own as Mark attempted to unload it.

         II. The Remington Trigger Assembly

         The Teagues allege that Mark was killed as a result of his Remington rifle's defective design. They theorize that the gun fired as Mark attempted to unload the rifle on the morning of November 3, even though he did not pull the trigger.

         Mark's rifle uses a trigger assembly design known as the Walker Fire Control, which is specific to Remington rifles. (Id. at 2.) As shown in the image below, the Walker Fire Control assembly uses a floating trigger "connector" that ...


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