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Millions of allegedly defective Remington firearms will remain in the public's hands for at least a while longer, after attorneys for the gun maker and class action plaintiffs said they need more time to come up with a plan to notify owners about a program to fix the guns.
The parties had faced a deadline Monday to submit the plan to a federal judge in Missouri, but in a joint filing late last week they cited "the complexity of the issues" in asking for a 60-day extension. Monday morning, U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith agreed to give them until April 29, the second time he has extended the deadline.
Under a proposed nationwide settlement reached more than a year ago, Remington agreed to replace the triggers on its popular Model 700 rifle and a dozen other firearms with similar designs. While Remington maintains the guns are safe, plaintiffs say the guns include a deadly design flaw that can cause them to fire without the trigger being pulled. Lawsuits have linked the alleged defect to some two dozen deaths and hundreds of injuries. Remington blames user errors, but says it agreed to replace the triggers anyway in order to avoid drawn out litigation. The proposed settlement covers an estimated 7.5 million guns, some manufactured as early as the 1940s.
Smith sent the parties back to the drawing board in December, the same day CNBC published a new investigation into what the company knew about the alleged defect and when. CNBC first investigated Remington in 2010.
Among other things, the judge said he was concerned that a relative handful of gun owners — just over 2,000 out of more than 7 million — had filed claims since the tentative settlement was announced. He said the numbers convinced him the parties were not doing enough to alert the public.
"The Court cannot conceive that an owner of an allegedly defective firearm would not seek the remedy being provided pursuant to this Settlement Agreement," Smith wrote on Dec. 8.
Since then, according to last week's filing, both sides have been "working diligently" to come up with a new plan, but they say it is not ready. Among other issues, the attorneys say, is the need to work with unidentified "third parties" to formulate the plan.
"This motion is not made for the purpose of delay," the filing says.
In addition to the Model 700, the settlement covers the following Remington firearms: Seven, Sportsman 78, 673, 710, 715, 770, 600, 660, 721, 722 and 725 rifles, and the XP-100 bolt-action pistol.