A major class action settlement involving some 7.5 million allegedly unsafe Remington firearms that were the subject of a 2010 CNBC investigation can proceed, a federal appeals panel has ruled. The agreement could clear the way for millions of gun owners to have their guns retrofitted with new trigger mechanisms, free of charge, ahead of this year’s hunting season. But critics of the settlement have not ruled out further appeals.
The case involves the iconic Remington Model 700 bolt-action rifle, and a dozen other Remington firearms with similar designs. CNBC investigated allegations that a design defect allows the guns to fire without the trigger being pulled.
Lawsuits have linked the alleged defect to dozens of deaths and hundreds of serious injuries. Remington has consistently maintained that the guns are safe, but said it was settling the class action case—and agreeing to replace the triggers—“to avoid the uncertainties and expense of protracted litigation.”
Critics said Remington’s continued assertion that the guns are safe was a deliberate attempt to undermine the settlement and reduce the number of claims. After only a relative handful of owners responded to the initial notice of the settlement in 2015, a federal judge ordered the parties back to the drawing board to come up with a better plan to notify the public.
U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith approved the amended settlement last year. But two Model 700 owners — Lewis Frost of Louisiana and Richard Denney of Oklahoma — appealed the ruling, citing the continued low response rate from customers. On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected that argument.
“In the end, the low claims submission rate, while not ideal, is not necessarily indicative of a deficient notice plan,” the panel wrote in an 11-page opinion.